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, tea, 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.

This phenomenon has become so prominent that caffeine withdrawal is now a recognized disorder and is listed in the DSM-5.

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 habitual caffeine drinker, you may experience negative symptoms when quitting caffeine even if you only consumed it for a few days in a row.

Top 15 Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

  1. Headaches
    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 sudden drop in your dopamine levels.
  5. Constipation
    Caffeine stimulates the bowel, so without it, 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
    Since caffeine has pain-relieving qualities, muscle pain will become very noticeable.
  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 even though physically they feel super tired.
  11. Nausea and Vomiting
    Some people can’t even think about food the first few 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 of anxiety and panic attacks have even 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 and experience vertigo.
  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.

If you want to reduce your caffeine intake (or quit entirely), please download our book Awake (it's free).

For best results use the Wean Caffeine supplement (something we helped get to market). It helps you avoid the withdrawal symptoms that often come when reducing caffeine.

Detoxing is No Laughing Matter

Caffeine withdrawal is a very unpleasant experience, to say the least.

The symptoms of withdrawal usually last a few days to two weeks 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 most addicted, the worst symptoms subside after about a week’s time.

Even after the withdrawal period is over, many still feel never quite as good as they did when they were 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 use.

Caffeine CAN be Addictive

How addicted to caffeine are 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 quit or not depends on how your caffeine habit is affecting your own health, your relationships, and the people around you.

For some people, their regular coffee/caffeine habit may not affect any of those things and quitting need not be necessary.

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 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 and dopamine levels lead to many 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, or Tylenol can help ease headaches 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 fruit 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.

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Written by Ted Kallmyer, last updated on November 23, 2018

References

  • Juliano, L. M., & Griffiths, R. R. (2004). A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology, 176(1), 1-29. Study
  • Silverman, K., Evans, S. M., Strain, E. C., & Griffiths, R. R. (1992). Withdrawal syndrome after the double-blind cessation of caffeine consumption. New England Journal of Medicine, 327(16), 1109-1114. Study pdf
  • Rogers, P. J., Heatherley, S. V., Mullings, E. L., & Smith, J. E. (2013). Faster but not smarter: effects of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal on alertness and performance. Psychopharmacology, 226(2), 229-240. Study
  • Budney, A. J., Brown, P. C., Griffiths, R. R., Hughes, J. R., & Juliano, L. M. (2013). Caffeine withdrawal and dependence: a convenience survey among addiction professionals. Journal of caffeine research, 3(2), 67-71. Study
  • Lack, L., & Johannson, K. (2013). Caffeine withdrawal: Cost or benefit?. Sleep Medicine, 14, e53. Study