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 completed a caffeine detox 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
    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 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

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 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 describe this process in detail here.
  • 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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  • ted

    @Mac, Yup perfectly normal , just hang in there. You must have have had quite a high daily dose.

  • Katie

    I gave up caffeine (all caffeine) 4 days ago, and I have to say that almost all of these are me right now. Especially depression, lethargy and irritability.
    Let me just say this now, DON’T GO COLD TURKEY! I did for a class I am in and that’s a horrible idea. Ween yourself off.

  • Mac

    I appreciate your feedback, Ted. Although some of my withdrawal symptoms are gone after 9 days of significantly reduced caffeine intake (I went cold turkey initially; after 5 days I started weaning myself off with half a can of Diet Pepsi in the morning and half in the evening), I am still battling insomnia (4-5 hours of sleep each night). In addition, I find myself suffering from nervousness and/or anxiety about 50 percent of the time. I certainly hope that these symptoms will go away soon (approximately 35 years of drinking soda).

  • Steve

    I quit caffeine two years ago and had pain in my stomach like I was stabbed. That lasted about 10 days. The first two days were like a headache that moved from place to place in my head. I was able to quit by replacing my addiction with reading websites like these. I’m off the wagon and preparing to quit again for lent in hopes to have a permanent severance of the relationship.

  • Amy

    I consume about 300-400mg a day of caffeine and haven’t had any in a little over a day now. So far I only have a massive headache. I’ve gone through withdrawal before last year, when I was drinking four 20oz Mountain Dews a day (close to 500mg caffeine) and stopped cold turkey. The symptoms then were horrible. I experienced something that is not on your list – plummeting blood pressure. I actually passed out once from it. It was very scary; I hope that doesn’t happen this time because I don’t need to be passing out at work!

  • Becca

    I drink about 7-9 diet sodas a day. I get horrible withdrawal if I go to bed too early – because then I’m not consuming caffeine – or if I don’t drink enough. The first one is worse. I wake up with the worst headache and nausea. If I try to eat anything or take a pain meds I immediately vomit and will so so for about 3 – 4 more hours. Nasty. The best thing I can so is have a little water, two pepto bismal tablets, and sleep for a bit (yes with the horrible headache). About an hour after that I take excedrin, which obviously works for pain but also gives me a shot of caffeine. I then sleep for 4 or 5 hours. After that I can wake up and semi-function. Normally the headache is lingering so I drink my caffeine supply of the day. I try never to let this happen. I’ve lost count of how many mg of caffeine I consume but it’s alot. Physically addicted? Probably. Mentally? Nope. I just need the energy for college work!

  • M C

    The reason I gave up caffeine is because one day I had five large lattes (the most I’ve had in a given day) and then I started to get sharp chest pains, chest tightness and shortness of breath. It freaked me out, messed up my normal breathing patterns, and I was afraid to sleep that night because I didn’t think I was ever going to wake up. Since that day, I have given up caffeine altogether (it’s been about a week now). I have been unmotivated, my breathing has gotten back to normal (I’d say 90% normal), sleepy during the day but restless at night, slight headaches, sadness, and easy irritability. I hope it goes away fast!

  • vincent

    I’m on my 7th day clean of coffee. Headaches, irritability, wanting to sleep alot, but today i’m starting to feel alittle better. two weeks i should be ok. I really want to give up this poison–coffee.

  • Carrie

    Wow, I didn’t know about the constipation! That certainly explains it. Sorry for the over-share. 🙂

  • Withdrawel

    Ok, so I guess everyone experiences withdrawel a little differently… My symptoms included on the negative following cold turkey from moderate to heavy use (for years): Sore throat migrating down to chest congestion on second day (I RARELY get sick); low back pain; extreme discomfort in hamstrings beginning in the evenings and waking me up for 2-3 hours each night.. (started ibuprofen 600mg at bed and slept thru) and sleeping in which aint that bad i guess. BUT, positives include: quick to anger and irritability all but gone… calm, not freaking out about things (the reason I quit!) clearer thinking and more enjoyable too be around; steady energy.. not crashing anymore or feeling totally drained/exhausted. Only on day six or seven now.. back pain gone, only left leg tight, but much less, sleeping more normally, in good spirits… gonna stick with it, feel like I can actually think normally and live a thoughtfull life.. 🙂 Very satisfied w/ my choice to give up the feine!

  • Cindy P

    I am quiting caffeine due to my high heart rate & blood pressure. These headaches everyday suck. Hopefully, they will go away soon.

  • Mary

    I am on my second week of stopping coffee cold turkey and it has been harder than I ever imagined! Severe headaches, starting at the base of my neck and moving all the way up to my forehead. It was so bad that I went to a chiropractor thinking my neck was out of line. Then after 5 days, I got flu symtoms, with sinus headaches, congestion, sore throat. I didn’t think the later were from quiting coffee. That is why I searched for the symptoms. I surely hope that it gets better soon. On day 8 now.

  • Heather

    I must say that being a coffee slinger (working in a coffee shop, a barista, what ever you want to call me) My caffeine habit was well supplied! I have to say that my addiction to caffeine has since then intensified. Not good, nope not good at all. I was consuming around 16 energy drinks a day, on top of the 9 or 10 cups of coffee at work. I must say, that since I have greatly reduced my caffeine intake (just a few days ago), the side-effects are so bad. Headaches non-stop, nausea (with the occasional lunch not being able to be held onto.) Sleeplessness, yet constant lethargy. I must say, I know that I am cutting back for health reasons, and I don’t want to because of the horrible feeling that I am going through now.

  • Ryan

    Well I have been drinking Coffee since I was 18 One morning my mother said here try some Coffee, Me being very picky with what I eat and drink said no… My mom said it will be a good pass time since then I have started my morning With two cups of coffee. Now 23 today was the first day of not doing my Coffee Routine My day has consisted of laying on my bed With absolutely now motivation and a moderate headache. I am also a recovering Heroin addict and been clean for 14 months the symptoms of detoxing off Caffeine Can be similar too Opiate withdrawal first the headache Then the lethargy,muscle stiffness mild Too severe Depression But Let Me TELL you that heroin withdrawal is pure hell Comparison Too Caffeine Detox. But if you start your morning With coffee and been doing so for twenty years or more Let me tell you There are some Jails in our country That don,t allow coffee so dont get locked up and have too face a Caffeine detox You are going too feel like the heroin junky coming off there shit..

  • angela

    i quit caffeine cold turkey because of migraines. I haven’t had a headache since. I only noticed a change in a condition called restless leg syndrome. I only had it occasionally, but since i’ve been totally off caffeine, I have it more regularly…and not just my legs…sort of my whole body. It’s pretty annoying…I lay down to go to sleep and i just feel like i have to move all the time. Still better than a headache, but also plan to get help for that.

  • oops

    I am in school for language and I have an energy drink every day because let’s face it going on about grammer for hours on end isn’t always enthralling. I didn’t have time to buy one that morning and my teacher asked me one of my answers to the questions. I gave it to her but between me giving my answer and her asking me to translate I had passed out cold in my seat. I don’t think i have the option to give this up any time soon :/

  • Vita

    I dont know how many mg of caffine i drink in a day but I drink at least a 2 liter of pop a day Pepsi or Dew. Then i will Drink energy shots or take caffine pills when i take the pills they are either 100 or 200 mg and i will take 1 or 2 every 3 hours I want to quit because i want to get prego and i am trying to kick on bad habbit at a time and i knew that i would get headaches and be sleepy but i didnt know about all the other symptoms and i suffer from depression already and that symptom worries me because it can be bad enough on its own any one have any tips on how i can ween my self slowly off??

  • jerig

    Boy: I am sure feeling this headache thing. I am on my 2nd day and I can feel almost all the symptoms… but the headache and no motivation is really starting to get me down. It is taking a great effort to work thru my day. I stoppd with the caffeine due to having read an article regarding restless leg syndrome which I have and how no caffeine and no wine will lessen the syptoms. I hope this works, I know I will need a rubber room if it does not help to lessen my RLS symtoms so I can sleep at nite and be able to sit thru a movie or a concert without having to get up and move around every 20 minutes or so. I see that most people like me have had a long history with caffeine so I am in good company… will post again in a few days …

  • Zuco

    I have been caffeine free now for 10 days. The worst day of it all was days 7-10. Though I am sure there may be more days to come this has been the worst thus far. day 7 began near mid day with lunch and stomach pains very mild at first and getting worse. Day 8 began with extreme stomach pains, headaches, nausea, and extra sensitive skin. It felt like I could feel anything that touched me all over my body. That night I knew it would screw me in the end but I was tired and went to sleep around 7PM. Decent amount of sleep but multiple wake-ups with little to no trouble getting back to sleep. Day 9 & 10 feeling progressively better. Still not 100%. Is there more to expect or is this near to done?

  • ted

    @Zuco, That sounds like a separate issue to me, probably a virus of some type. by 7 days your body would be pretty much detoxed from caffeine. the first 3 days are always the worst.

Last Modified: December 16, 2016

References

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