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Can Caffeine Cause Mood Swings?

By Becky Swain ; Updated August 14, 2017

When you sip a steaming cappuccino or gulp your favorite soda, you consume caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant that modifies your feelings and behavior. For some people, the effects of caffeine on the central nervous system can cause serious problems that include changes in mood. Ronald Griffiths, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, indicates that caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world that modifies behavior and mood.

Caffeine and Depression

Long-term, heavy use of caffeine may be related to depression, reports Limit or avoid caffeine if you are sensitive to its effects, recommends Mayo Clinic psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin. Sleep deprivation may worsen your condition if you are depressed, and caffeine prevents falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. Quitting caffeine abruptly may increase your symptoms of depression, irritability, fatigue and headaches. A preferable alternative to quitting caffeine abruptly is to gradually substitute decaffeinated or caffeine-free foods and beverages.

Caffeine Toxicity

In a study published in the January 2009 issue of "Drug and Alcohol Dependence," researchers reported that the growing use of caffeinated energy drinks increases the risk for caffeine toxicity. "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders" recognizes caffeine intoxication, or caffeine toxicity, as a clinical syndrome resulting from excessive caffeine consumption. Symptoms of caffeine toxicity, which include nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness and psychomotor agitation, can resemble symptoms of clinical anxiety and mood disorders. The researchers suggest that genetic factors may influence your risk factors for the problems associated with caffeine toxicity, withdrawal and dependence.

Caffeine Withdrawal

Johns Hopkins Medicine reviewed 57 research studies and nine surveys related to caffeine withdrawal to identify common withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms included dysphoric mood characterized by irritability and depression, difficulty concentrating and flu-like symptoms. The severity of withdrawal symptoms may coincide with the amount of caffeine consumed. Researchers reported that a daily single standard cup of coffee, containing 100 milligrams of caffeine, can create caffeine addiction. You can expect the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal to appear 12 to 24 hours after cessation of caffeine, with symptoms peaking after one to two days.


Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that the primary effect of caffeine on the central nervous system is to help you feel temporarily more alert, it can cause more serious problems related to changes in mood. Additional research is needed to determine whether genetic factors may predispose some individuals to depression and dysphoric mood associated with caffeine dependence, withdrawal and toxicity.

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