Caffeinism: Anxiety to Psychosis

Do you ingest caffeine regularly and have symptoms consistent with a mental disorder?

  • Yes

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Apr 21, 2005
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Do you ingest caffeine regularly and have symptoms consistent with a mental disorder? If so, you may be caught in the Caffeine Web:

"Caffeine-induced psychosis, whether it be delirium, manic depression, schizophrenia, or merely an anxiety syndrome, in most cases will be hard to differentiate from other organic or non-organic psychoses....The treatment for caffeine-induced psychosis is to withhold further caffeine."

Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose,
Third Edition,
Michael W. Shannon, MD, MPH, Director, Lead and Toxicology Clinic,
The Children's Hospital Boston; Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Lester M. Haddad, MD, Clinical Professor in Family Medicine,
Medical University of South Carolina; Bon Secours St. Francis Xavier Hospital
James F. Winchester, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology, Georgetown University Medical Center

From the author of

Within months of beginning to drink coffee for the first time at age 30, I went from excellent health to psychosis. I averaged only 2-3 cups of coffee a day. As I withdrew from caffeine 18 months later, my symptoms--delusions, euphoria, anxiety, disorientation, loss of judgment and zombie-like behavior--vanished entirely, without medication.

I've created to alert others who may be suffering from caffeine poisoning without knowing it, and to encourage medical professionals to remove caffeine from their patients' diets before diagnosing an organic disorder.

During my recovery I was hospitalized for two weeks in a psychiatric ward, an utterly foreign environment for me. I discovered that virtually all my fellow patients were caffeine addicts, most of them ingesting far more than I did for a much longer period of time. Like me, they were diagnosed with mental illnesses while exhibiting symptoms consistent with caffeinism. I have to wonder how many of them were also misdiagnosed and, as one caffeine expert puts it, "medicated and lost in a dark, disturbed world, until death."

A growing number of medical experts are equally concerned:

Drs. DC Mackay and JW Rollins, Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service, 1989:
"[When caffeine is taken in excess], anxiety-related symptoms become increasingly apparent. A case of caffeinism, which presented as a paranoid delusion, is reported as an extreme example of this. A study of 60 hospital inpatients revealed that about 40% of them consumed sufficient caffeine to produce symptoms of caffeinism."


Dr. Sidney Kaye, Institute of Legal Medicine:
"Coffee overindulgence is overlooked many times because the bizarre symptoms may resemble and masquerade as an organic or mental disease....But what a feeling of relief to both physician and patient to see the symptoms completely disappear on the physician's order to stop drinking coffee."


Clinical nutritionist Stephen Cherniske, Author, Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Dangers of America's #1 Drug:
"For five years I worked in a team practice with physicians and psychotherapists. Often, the psychological evaluation would include one or more anxiety syndromes, and the recommendation was for counseling. I would point out that the person was consuming excessive amounts of caffeine and request a trial month off caffeine prior to therapy sessions. In about 50% of cases, the anxiety syndrome would resolve with caffeine withdrawal alone."

"In over a decade of practice as a clinical nutritionist, I have seen firsthand, with thousands of clients, that caffeine is a health hazard. Anxiety, muscle aches, PMS, headaches....However, if that's all caffeine has done to you, you're lucky. What about people misdiagnosed as neurotic or even psychotic, who spend years and small fortunes in psychotherapy--all because no one asked them about their caffeine intake?"


Drs. JE James and KP Stirling, in The British Journal of Addiction:
"Although infrequently diagnosed, caffeinism is thought to afflict as many as one person in ten of the population."


R. Gregory Lande, DO, FACN, Deputy and Director of Professional Services, William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute, University of South Carolina:
"Diagnosis of any caffeine-related disorder begins with clinical awareness. Beverage caffeine is such a common component of social activity that its consideration as a psychostimulant often is neglected.... Too many clinical histories fail to record caffeine use."

"In rare cases where an individual's dose exceeds 1 gram per day [less than twice the dosage discovered in some 16 oz. Starbucks brews], the picture changes. Gross muscle tremors, highly disorganized speech, and possible arrhythmias herald a more sinister outcome."


Calvin Thrash, MD, Author, Food Allergies Made Simple:
"Thousands are in mental institutions today because of no greater matter than that of the use of caffeine. Psychiatrists are now publishing articles indicating that there are numerous cases of depression and anxiety in mental institutions, who need no other treatment than to be taken off caffeine."

Note: The information on this site is not a substitute for an informed discussion with a mental health professional. Sometimes caffeine is the primary cause of symptoms that mimic mental illness, which disappear when caffeine is eliminated from the system. But caffeine is also known to exacerbate preexisting mental disorders, in which case withdrawing from it is only one ingredient to improving your health. Whichever category you fall into, it's best to consult a doctor before acting on the information at
Coffee is also a medicine)You should take your medicine whenever you get sick or have a headache, but do you know what happens when you take your medicine? We are on medication and will soon recover, but do you know what magic they have on your body? We just know that we are swallowing the pill into our body, but how it gets to the right place and shows its effects over time.
Using the example of wheelchairs, I can say that they are definitely useful and do not harm our body. My son broke his leg and we bought him a chair that we find here and it was very convenient and we knew for sure that we did not harm him. drugs can not be sure