Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms: Top Ten

Caffeine Withdrawal

If you are an avid coffee or energy drink consumer then you are aware of how addictive caffeinated beverages can be.

A few hours after missing your scheduled dose the caffeine withdrawal symptoms start to set in.

Caffeine withdrawal is now a disorder according the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

If you’ve ever completed a caffeine detox you know how difficult and painful quitting caffeine can be. It seems that the more caffeine a person consumes, the greater the intensity and duration of the withdrawal.

Here are the most common caffeine withdrawal symptoms. You’ll be comforted to know that you aren’t really dying but just detoxing from the caffeine.

If you aren’t normally a caffeine drinker, you may experience symptoms when quitting caffeine even if only consumed for a few days in a row.

Top 10 Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

  1. Headache
    A caffeine headache usually starts behind the eyes and then moves up the front of the head.
  2. Sleepiness
    This just isn’t your normal tiredness, this is sitting up straight but still can’t keep your eyes open tiredness.
  3. Irritability
    Everyone and everything gets on your last nerve. It’s best just to lock yourself in your room during this stage.
  4. Lethargy
    Forget about productivity at this stage because you’ll be unmotivated to do anything.
  5. Constipation
    Caffeine stimulates the bowel, so without its daily dose the colon gets a little cranky too.
  6. Depression
    Caffeine withdrawal can take away all hope for living. Temporary blues are one thing, but if you already struggle with depression this could be a big issue.
  7. Muscle Pain/Stiffness
    If you normally have some caffeine prior to exercise then during caffeine withdrawal you could feel as though your muscles have weights strapped to them.
  8. Lack of Concentration
    Forget school, studying, brain surgery, or jet engine repair during this stage of withdrawal.
  9. Flu-like symptoms
    Stuffy nose, blocked sinuses, and even vomiting have been reported by people withdrawing from caffeine.
  10. Insomnia
    Some people actually can’t sleep when going through caffeine withdrawal.

Detoxing is No Laughing Matter

Caffeine withdrawal is a very unpleasant experience.

Fortunately the symptoms only last a few days to a week so there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

However, even after the withdrawal period is over, I personally still never feel quite as good as I do when I’m drinking caffeine all of the time.

This is most likely due to the changes that occur with the dopamine receptors in the brain because of caffeine.

Some scientists believe that caffeine can hinder vitamin absorption.

Wrong! Some scientists believe that caffeine may actually hinder vitamin absorption.

Caffeine CAN be Addictive

How addicted to caffeine are/were you?

You can take our Caffeine Addiction Diagnosis Quiz to see where you rank. This may explain why your caffeine withdrawal has been so rough.

Human beings can be addicted to anything – including caffeine. Whether dependency or addiction, the reality is that for many, stopping caffeine consumption is very difficult.

Whether you should or not depends on how your habits are affecting your own health, your relationships, or the people around you.

For most people, their regular coffee habit may not affect any of these things.

Reducing the Impact of Caffeine

There is some research indicating products like Rutacleanse do actually reduce the impact of caffeine. They do this by assisting with caffeine metabolism*.

The Science of Withdrawal

brain-caffeine-addiction
  1. Caffeine is addictive because the molecule itself fits so perfectly into our brain’s adenosine receptors.
  2. Adenosine is responsible for telling the brain when it is time to rest or sleep.
  3. Since these receptors are blocked with caffeine molecules, dopamine (the feel good chemical) works more efficiently. The excess adenosine signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, which further perpetuates the feeling of alertness.
  4. Over time, the brain adds more adenosine receptors to compensate for the caffeine, which causes a “tolerance” to build up to the caffeine molecule.
  5. When a person misses or decides to quit their usual caffeine dose the brain is then flooded with adenosine and dopamine levels drop drastically causing the brain’s chemistry to be out of balance.
  6. The increased adenosine plus a drop in adrenaline levels leads to some of the caffeine withdrawal symptoms listed above.

Have you experienced caffeine withdrawal symptoms that aren’t on the list above? Share them in the comments below.

*This is an affiliate link. If you purchase the product we may receive a small commission. Thanks for helping the site.

  • Nick

    When I was trying to stop drinking energy drinks and soda for a while so I could detox and actually get some use out of the stuff again, I experienced 1-5 and 8. I gave up after like 5 days because I couldn’t concentrate on ANYTHING with a splitting headache, and it was almost finals time. I remember going over to a Quillin’s (local-ish chain of grocery stores) during lunch and getting a Monster BFC.

  • Steve

    I basically do the same a nick. Occasionally I need to detox and take a break from the caffeine. No only does it clear me out but it significantly lowers my resistance to it making future drinks/food/etc… far more potent.

    I’ll get all the symptoms except 6 and 10. Number 5 is no joke and I now prepare for my detox by having a higher fiber diet planned. But for me the Headache (number 1) starts at the base of my skull and top of my neck and radiates both up and down.

    The best way for me to avoid all of the above is to cut back slowly and if any of the real bad symptoms show up I’ll grab a can of mountain dew to placate them.

  • Nathan

    Just recently tried to give up energy drinks etc. and I got a huge dose of 8. Ended up just carrying on with them, after about 4 days.

  • Nathan

    Ah, 6 that is.

  • matt

    i have had withdrawl but not on perpose i LOVE energy drinks and would never give them up. yesterday i didnt have any monster so i had the WORST headache. blah :P

  • matt

    :P

  • http://www.caffeineaholic.net Caffeine A Holic

    Caffeine headaches are the worst.

  • Brad

    So Nick and Naomi had the same exact story? Nice crappy shill for Monster, puke.

    I had the problems after quitting Xenedrine, not fun/

  • http://www.caffeineinformer.com ted

    Naomi was a tricky little spammer and she was deleted…. :-)

  • anonymous

    very good list very accurate

  • Michelle

    This is NO joke – coffee was putting me into a panic everyday, so i had to quit. I quit the multiple shots of expresso a while back. I had most of the stuff above and still have trouble staying awake all day long. One or two naps are required. But i believe it will get better, the moods are not so great, good thing i am single right now – i could never do this in a realationship – you need lots of alone time to get off the caffeine!! I’m on week 2, and feeling better. But I don’t want to pick up again, because i NEVER want to do that first headache day again!

  • physical therapist

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • Avery

    I decided to go a whole day without caffeine. Normally, I will drink an energy drink such as Shock Latte or Cocaine Energy Drink. And on Saturday, I had a 12 ounce mug of Shock Coffee (Around 320 milligrams of caffeine). When I am off caffeine, like right now, I am lethargic and really want some caffeine, but I don’t get those caffeine withdrawal headaches. Is this because I am not taking in enough? It’s not that I want caffeine headaches, I was just curious as to why I am not getting them.

  • http://www.caffeineinformer.com ted

    Avery- Some people react differently to caffeine and it seems like you have quite a high tolerance of the substance. You should be grateful you don’t get the headaches because they’re awful! You can probably drink a lot of caffeine and still sleep well at night. :-)

  • Candace

    I drink a lot of pop. About a 2 liter everyday. I switched to pop without caffeine. I got headaches and nausea. Then the headaches went away and I got dizziness with nausea. All that lasted about 10 days. Then that quit now I’m on my 4th or 5th day of not getting any sleep. It’s awful. I’ve never had problems sleeping before. So it’s very hard for me.

  • Eoin

    My relationship with caffeine was pretty sick. I would only have one cup of coffee a day…but it would have up to 9 spoons of coffee in it.
    This last week ive been reducing this by a spoon a day,and now im down to like 4 1/2 spoons,however i feel like hell, Im getting nearly all the stages except 5…Its horrible.
    How long is this going to last? I feel like just stopping and going back my normal amount.

  • http://www.caffeineinformer.com ted

    @ Eoin- It usually takes about 2 weeks to start feeling normal so hang in there :-)

  • Evelyn

    I started drinking coffee to help me stay alert and my parents got me a coffee machine for chirstmas. Last week was break for school and I had an extra bold coffee everyday. I went back to school yesterday and I was fine, but today was horrible. My head hurts so much. And fell asleep during 1st period and got a zero for the day! I had to go home and try to sleep it off by it was hard because I felt my head pulsing so much. I also had been feeling anxiety through out the day, I’m only going to drink coffee on the weekends. I have a caffeine hang over!

  • flynn

    I’ve tried to skip a day without coffee and I started to have chestpain and started vommiting, after sleeping for the entire day the chest pain wasnt there anymore, now i feel dizzy at work and cant concentrate on anything.

  • Mac

    I have completely eliminated caffeine from my diet, and had no idea how hard that would be on my body. Flu-like symptoms, burning eyes, shakiness, anxiety, and the worst part is that I haven’t slept more than 3-4 hours a night (even with Ambien) since I quit (about 5 days ago). I assume that these symptoms are due to lack of caffeine (recently had a physical and I’m in good health). Would appreciate any comments, suggestions, etc.

Last Modified: August 28, 2014