Caffeine is a stimulant drug found in coffee, tea and cola drinks. Cutting out caffeine from the diet has been proposed to help depression in some cases.
Some people are thought to have a sensitivity to caffeine which produces depression. Caffeine is also thought to increase anxiety in people who are very anxious and have panic attacks. Because depression and anxiety often occur together, cutting out caffeine may help by lowering associated anxiety.
There is very little scientific evidence on caffeine avoidance in people who have been diagnosed with depression.
In the general population, there is a link between caffeine consumption and mood. Several studies have found that moderate consumption of caffeine is linked to a lower risk of depression in adults. In children however, greater consumption of caffeine has been linked to more symptoms of depression. It is important to remember that while there may be a link between caffeine and mood, this does not mean that it is a causal link – i.e., drinking less or more caffeine does not necessarily cause depression. There may be some other underlying factor that can explain this link.
For people who regularly consume caffeine, suddenly giving it up can produce withdrawal effects, such as headaches and feeling less alert.
Cutting down on coffee, tea and soft drinks is a simple treatment people can do by themselves.
Given the lack of evidence on caffeine avoidance, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.
Last updated and reviewed: 1 December 2016