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Researchers Say Coffee Addiction May Be A Psych Disorder

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Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV Medical Reporter Dr. Mallika Marshall
Dr. Mallika Marshall is WBZ-TV News’ Medical Reporter and contributes...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Many of us need a cup of coffee to get going each morning. It seems our bodies – and our minds – just can’t get started without it.

Psychologists are now researching whether our need for caffeine is more than just a physical craving.

They are calling this “Caffeine Use Disorder.”

Every morning Jessica Hayes starts her day with a big cup of coffee. And then she has another.

“I feel like it helps me be more productive, just in general, and doing things that require a lot of energy,” explained Hayes.

Her caffeine consumption got to the point where her doctor told her it was time to cut back. “It’s definitely something that I fight with myself all the time,” added Hayes.

Psychology professor Laura Juliano is now researching caffeine use disorder.

“It is having a physical dependence, but in addition to physical dependence, some sort of harm because of the drug caffeine, as well as an inability to stop using it when they’re advised by a medical provider to do so.”

Caffeine use disorder is not an official diagnosis, but the American Psychiatric Association is starting to take a closer look at it.

“We need to do more research,” said Dr. Charles O’Brien of the APA. “For a use disorder, it would have to be people compulsively drinking coffee, and having it interfere with their behavior.”

Professor Juliano said she has seen cases in which caffeine users have sought treatment.

“It would be beneficial if treatment guidelines were developed in the same way they’ve been developed for tobacco. People have come to us saying, ‘Yes, please help me. I believe my caffeine use is problematic. I have been unable to quit,’” Juliano said.

Options might include counseling as a way to develop a healthier relationship with something that is all around us.

Hayes said she is open-minded about getting professional help.

“If there was somebody who had some kind of cure, some kind of thing that would make me feel like I didn’t need it every day, I would absolutely take it,” she said.

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