Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms: Top Fifteen

Caffeine withdrawal is no laughing matter and can be very debilitating for those who are suddenly without caffeine.

Caffeine Withdrawal

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

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

Caffeine withdrawal is now a recognized disorder and is listed in the DSM-5.

If you’ve ever attempted to quit caffeine without a proper caffeine detox program like Wean Caffeine, then you know how difficult and painful quitting caffeine can be. Typically 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.

Even 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 15 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 from the feeling of the lack of energy.
  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, Cramping
    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
    A stuffy nose, blocked sinuses, and sinus pressure have all been reported by people withdrawing from caffeine.
  10. Insomnia
    Some people actually can’t sleep when going through caffeine withdrawal.
  11. Nausea and Vomiting
    Some people can’t even think about food the first couple days of withdrawal which compounds the feeling of lethargy.
  12. Anxiety
    In some people, caffeine actually causes anxiety, but in others, withdrawing from the drug can cause feelings on anxiety and even panic attacks have been reported by some.
  13. Brain Fog
    Withdrawal can cause some people to experience brain fog which is described as the difficulty of having coherent thoughts, difficulty thinking, and the difficulty of doing common tasks.
  14. Dizziness
    Caffeine withdrawal can cause some people to lose their sense of equilibrium.
  15. Heart Rhythm Abnormalities
    Since caffeine also stimulates the heart muscle, some people experience changes in their heart rhythm during withdrawal. Both low blood pressure and even palpitations have been reported.
Quit caffeine without having horrible withdrawal. Find out how Wean Caffeine can help here.

Detoxing is No Laughing Matter

Caffeine withdrawal is a very unpleasant experience.

The symptoms of withdrawal only last a few days to a week for light caffeine consumers but can last 2 months or more for those that had been consuming around 1000 mg or more daily. However, even for the heaviest of consumer the worst symptoms subside after about a week’s time.

Even after the withdrawal period is over, many still never feel quite as good as they do when they’re drinking caffeine all of the time. Some believe that caffeine permanently alters one’s brain chemistry.

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

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 that contain rutaecarpine can actually reduce the impact of caffeine. They do this by assisting with caffeine metabolism. Learn more here.

The Science of Withdrawal

  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 dosage, 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.

Easing The Symptoms

For those that are going through caffeine withdrawal, there are a few things that can be done to ease the symptoms and allow for more productivity.

  • Gradually ease back – If you are consciously giving up caffeine, it may be wise to gradually wean yourself off of caffeine opposed to going cold turkey. We recommend Wean Caffeine as a systematic and precise way to gradually reduce your caffeine consumption to zero over a 30 day period. wean caffeine
  • Take pain relievers – Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and Tylenol can also help ease headache and muscle pain symptoms associated with withdrawal.
  • Drink plenty of water – Staying well hydrated is key during the withdrawal process and will help you feel better.
  • Get plenty of rest – It’s helpful to plan for your withdrawal during a weekend or a time when productivity isn’t a necessity. Sleeping a lot the first day or two is pretty common.
  • Exercise – Most people won’t feel like exercising, but it will actually make you feel better. Exercise causes the release of dopamine, which is now in short supply in the absence of caffeine. You’ll need all the dopamine you can get, so get moving.
  • Eating healthily – Improving your diet will also help. Eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits will provide your body with the nutrition it needs thus delivering natural energy and promoting a more positive frame of mind.

In any event, just remember that withdrawing from caffeine is hard and takes time. Soon you’ll be caffeine-free and will be able to experience life without the daily influence of caffeine.

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

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  • 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 😛

  • matt


  • 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/

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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: November 10, 2017


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