5 Signs You're Hooked on Caffeine

If your daily routine includes grabbing a cup of coffee to start your day or a quick drive through Starbucks for your morning Macchiato, you’re not alone. It’s reported that about 64% of Americans drink coffee and 90% use caffeine regularly. Why? Because we depend on the after-effects to help get us through our day.

Caffeine is a stimulant that gives you adrenaline, which can help you concentrate, stay alert and even boost your mood. Drinking coffee, soda, energy drinks, tea and even chewing gum can all be sources of caffeine boosts. For many people, a daily dose of it helps kick start their day and helps keep energy levels up. However, forming a dependency can happen easier than you think. When your morning and afternoon pick-me-up becomes a daily necessity, you’ve probably crossed the line from a casual coffee drinker to a caffeine addict.

Here a few signs you might be addicted to caffeine:

You’re grumpy before the first hit

Because caffeine stimulates your brain, it not only helps wake you up but also increases adrenaline release. This can give you a “feel good” feeling and puts your brain and body into a hyper-aroused state. If you’re feeling irritable and drowsy without drinking an energy drink or cup of coffee, you might be experiencing withdrawal symptoms of caffeine.

Your head is pounding with a headache

Caffeine narrows the blood vessels in your brain. When you experience a headache from lack of caffeine, it’s because the blood vessels widen again, resulting in boosted blood flow, which may cause pain. Increasing your water intake can reduce headache symptoms and help keep you hydrated.

You’re having trouble focusing

When you drink coffee, soda or even tea that contains caffeine, you may find yourself more alert and wide-eyed than usual. If you’re used to that boost every day, brain fog and trouble concentrating may start to become more apparent if you suddenly reduce your caffeine intake. You might also notice yourself dosing off between meetings and feeling low on energy.

Quitting is giving you anxiety

If skipping a cup isn’t a question, or the thought of it freaks you out, you’re probably experiencing caffeine addiction. You just can’t bring yourself to quit cold turkey. Because of the nature of the mind and energy stimulation caffeine adds to your day, it’s easy to rely on it so much. However, you don’t have to cut the coffee out all at once. Baby steps are OK. Try cutting back slowly. Replace one caffeine drink a day with a caffeine-free option or go decaf.

You’re immune to its effects

Think about the first time you had a cup of coffee. Your heart was probably racing, your eyes all of the sudden wide and alert, and you were maybe even a bit jittery. Now, after who knows how many cups, the effect isn’t quite the same when you drink one in the morning. It’s called tolerance: The more you use caffeine, the more your body gets used to it. If you drink a lot of caffeine every day, your body builds up a tolerance to the effects and you may end up needing more caffeine to produce the energy boost and focus you once were able to get from a single serving.

If you’re starting to realize you might have a caffeine problem, don’t stress yet. Caffeine has been shown to have a few health benefits, so a little is OK. Recent studies suggest that a dose of caffeine may help boost memory, sports performance, brain function, weight loss and even lower risk of certain types of cancers.

The FDA recommends that healthy adults limit their caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams (mg) a day. That's roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of soda or two "energy shot" drinks. Women who are pregnant should avoid or limit their caffeine consumption to 200 mg per day. While these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you are addicted to caffeine, they do throw red flags. Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and exercise daily to naturally boost your energy.