Is Coffee Making You Crazy?

It may soon be official -- caffeine withdrawal could be considered a "mental disorder," temporary in duration though it may be. The reaction for many people to this piece of news has probably been, "Well, duh."

Last week, WebMD Medical News and other sources said that some researchers are suggesting that caffeine withdrawal should be included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM, as it's commonly known. The article states that by some researchers' estimations, caffeine withdrawal produces "enough physical symptoms and a disruption in daily life to classify it as a psychiatric disorder."

Cue up those people -- possibly someone you know -- stumbling around and emitting zombie-like grunts in the mornings, before their daily fixes. Other symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headaches, fatigue, "unhappy mood," and difficulty in focusing. The article spelled out the sort of disturbing fact that for one in eight people, lack of caffeine leaves them barely able to function at their daily activities, which certainly is no joke. For those caffeine junkies who quit altogether, withdrawal symptoms can continue for a period of up to nine days, peaking one to two days after cessation.

I've got a pretty severe habit that involves Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) products, as well as a need for a daily fix of Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX  ) , and I know I'm only one of many people who are pretty much incapable of normal conversation before an ample dose of morning caffeine. Peet's Coffee & Tea (Nasdaq: PEET  ) and Diedrich Coffee (Nasdaq: DDRX  ) , the name behind Gloria Jean, also hope to capitalize on what is an addictive yet socially acceptable habit. Chocolate makers such as Hershey (NYSE: HSY  ) and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Nasdaq: RMCF  ) also have their fair share of rabid fans, since the caffeine in chocolate helps makes it a habit-forming confection for some.

Will people pass on the java if it lands in the DSM? It seems unlikely. There was nothing newsworthy about the fact that caffeine withdrawal does exist; heck, it doesn't take scientific background to notice it. Needing that caffeine kick is one of the oldest stories in the world, one that many people have embraced, in fact (and a good thing for the companies named above).

However, there's always a chance that public opinion could turn against caffeine, despite the fact that some studies hint that caffeine could have some positive health effects. Even if caffeine withdrawal makes you a little "crazy," barring any discovery of negative health effects associated with the socially accepted drug, the obvious answer to the disorder, is just as it's always been: Keep it flowing.

Read some fully caffeinated Fool coverage:

The Starbucks discussion board is always open for business.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She's definitely not herself without her daily caffeine intake.


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