Caffeine Avoidance

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 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.


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  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
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What is it?

Caffeine is a stimulant drug found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola drinks and many other soft drinks. Cutting out caffeine from your diet has been proposed to help depression in some cases.

How does it work?

Some people are thought to have a sensitivity to caffeine which may impact their mood. Caffeine may also increase feelings of anxiety in some people, due to its stimulant effects. Because depression and anxiety often occur together, cutting out caffeine may help some people with depression by lowering their associated anxiety.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on caffeine avoidance as a treatment for people who have been diagnosed with depression. 

However, there is research that has looked for links between caffeine consumption and depression in the general population. Several large studies have found that moderate consumption of caffeine is linked to a lower risk of depression in adults. 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 –  drinking less or more caffeine does not necessarily cause depression. There may be some other underlying factor that can explain this link, and caffeine might affect different people in different ways.

Are there any disadvantages?

For people who regularly consume caffeine, suddenly giving it up can produce withdrawal effects, such as headaches and feeling less alert.

Where do you get it?

Cutting down on coffee, tea and soft drinks is a simple change people can do by themselves. If you are concerned about your caffeine consumption, or feel that drinking caffeine could be making you feel anxious, you can discuss this with your GP.


Given the lack of evidence on caffeine avoidance, it cannot be recommended as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Grosso G, Micek A, Castellano S, Pajak A, Galvano F. Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of depression: A systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of observational studies. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2016; 60(1): 223-34.
  • Torabynasab K, Shahinfar H, Payandeh N, Jazayeri S. Association between dietary caffeine, coffee, and tea consumption and depressive symptoms in adults: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. Frontiers in Nutrition (Lausanne). 2023; 10:1051444-.
  • Wang L, Shen X, Wu Y, Zhang D. Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2016; 50(3): 228-42.

Last updated and reviewed: 21 August 2023