Coffee is a curious beast.
When we’re low, it fixes us, but when we have too much of it, it can ruin us.
The World Health Organisation now recognises caffeine dependence as a clinical disorder and a 2013 research review around caffeine use from the Journal of Caffeine Research found “caffeine produces behavioural and physiological effects similar to those produced by other drugs of dependence”.
Though we may joke and play, consistent reliance on caffeine to keep us rolling through the day is unhealthy and potentially damaging.
So how do we know if we’re consuming coffee in a healthy way?
Accoridng to dietitian Melanie McGrice, there are four key signs you’re probably addicted to coffee.
- You get a headache if you miss your coffee
- You feel tired and struggle to concentrate unless you’ve had a coffee
- You feel anxious or depressed without it
- You try to cut down, but can’t
She tells Mamamia watching your intake of caffeine can be a crucial way to monitor whether your consumption is above average.
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“As a general rule, up to 400mg of caffeine is safe per day unless you are pregnant or have a medical conditions that means that you should have less. If you’re not getting from any other source (like tea or colas), that’s up to four small brewed coffees per day.”
There is, in fact, a difference between those who may be addicted to coffee and those who might be hypersensitive to caffeine. In 2017, Dr Tony Tanious of House Call Doctor told Mamamia the symptoms are similar, but have marked differences.
“There are a number of symptoms of caffeine intolerance or hypersensitivity. If you are experiencing any of the following it could be a sign that your body doesn’t handle caffeine well: nausea, heart racing, diarrhoea and tremors,” he tells Mamamia.
Of course, caffeine comes with its side effects – that we know. But these ones, he says, are different.
“These symptoms differ to the ‘normal’ effects of caffeine, such as loose bowel movements and increased energy, as they are far more severe,” Dr Tanious explains.
“While most individuals drink coffee to perk up in the mornings, those with a hypersensitivity to caffeine may feel like their heart is racing as a result of just a few sips,” he says.
“Like all addictions, coffee addiction can be hard to quit. I find that it depends upon people’s personality types – some do better weaning down, whilst others cope better with a ‘cold turkey’ approach.”
Do you think you’re addicted to caffeine? Chat to us in the comments.