Caffeine Abstinence during the Menstrual Cycle: An Evaluation of Mood, Somatic, Cognitive, and Psychomotor Effects of Withdrawal

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The purpose of the present study was to extend our understanding of caffeine withdrawal symptoms and of potentially differing symptom patterns across phases of the menstrual cycle. Forty-eight moderate habitual caffeine consumers, age 18 to 25 years, were recruited from the University of Maryland. Exclusion criteria included current or past psychiatric conditions (within six months) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In addition to daily diaries (including the caffeine intake survey, premenstrual syndrome questionnaires, LH surge test, and the caffeine withdrawal checklist), the effect of caffeine abstinence on psychomotor tasks was assessed during the follicular (around day 5 of the cycle) and luteal phases (approximately 4 days after the LH surge) of the menstrual cycle. Data analyses focused on withdrawal symptom ratings and psychomotor performance one day during the follicular phase and one day during the luteal phase of the cycle after 24 hours of caffeine abstinence. A series of repeated measures ANOVAs were used to assess caffeine withdrawal effects and differences in these effects between the follicular and luteal phases. Results confirmed the presence of certain withdrawal symptoms, but did not provide support for phase-differentiated effects of self-reported withdrawal symptoms or of psychomotor and cognitive performance differentials across the menstrual cycle. However, withdrawal, as a result of caffeine abstinence, did impact self-report symptom ratings during select days of abstinence, as compared with days of non-abstinence, during the both the follicular and the luteal phase. The present study is the first multi-method study to examine the effects of caffeine abstinence on habitual consumers across the menstrual cycle.