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

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 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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  • Knut

    I can consume large amounts of caffeine and have no problems sleeping. I’ve also found that if I drink an energy drink too fast I get tired.
    Lately I’ve only been having around 12oz of soda (mtn dew or pepsi) and just yesterday I started having signs or severe anxiety (constant urge to yawn, burping, I feel like I’m on speed, yet I feel exhausted).
    Anyone else felt this way when getting off caffeine?

  • I’ve been having headaches every day since I stopped my 3 cups a day with my Keurig. Now that I read this I see a lot of the other symptoms have been things I hadn’t contributed to caffeine. Now I’m not sure whether to go back to caffeine or quit completely.

  • Shannon Ross

    Don’t give up!! I almost did because I felt so bad, but I feel so much better now. I used to have a diet Coke or Dr.Pepper in my hand all waking hours. I only drank water to brush my teeth. I tried to lose weight but couldn’t. Then I read about not only the caffeine being bad for you, but the artificial sweetners fooling your body into retaining the weight. I decided to give it 30 days…ONLY water. After 3 days of continual headaches, nausea, sore joints and absolutely no energy, I almost gave up. When I woke up the 4th morning my headache wasn’t as bad and the nausea was gone. I got on the scale and had lost 5 pounds. It’s now day 21, the headaches stopped after 5 days and I have lost a total of 12 pounds! I feel so much better and it amazes me that I’m saving so much money (I was paying over $2.00 at lunch and dinner for soft drinks…plus the mid meal drinks). The weight loss really surprised me as well. So if you’re going through the first few days right now, stick with it…it’s SO worth it in every way! Good Luck

  • Ashley

    I have been drinking coke since about the age of 3 or 4. My mom allowed me to drink it anytime I wanted, and now here I am (will be 20 this year) and I still drink Coke, only more. And i know that my body definitely depends on coke because i’ve drank it for so long. About 2 weeks ago I stopped drinking Coke completely and let me just say, I feel like i’m going to die. I know it won’t last but this has been a pretty painful experience. I have all 10 symptoms, just not all at once. Like yesterday it felt like I had been in a car wreck, every single muscle in my arms, back, neck, and legs hurt. My body still hurts today. It’s extremely painful. For the past year or more I have been drinking 2-3 20oz. cokes per day. So i know that quitting cold turkey was a HUGE mistake. I had no idea that caffeine was this powerful. But i’m sticking to it and I refuse to pick up another coke. I’ve tried substituting coke for Powerade, Gatorade, and of course bottled water and I am proud of myself for making this huge change because it is NOT easy. I tried drinking a coke last week just to see if I would like it and I couldn’t even stand the taste of it. I would just like to recommend that if your addicted to caffeine and your trying to quit, you probably shouldn’t cut it out completely just take baby steps because if you stop all at once, you will endure some pretty bad symptoms.

  • Brian

    My theory is that the dizziness is caused by a sudden drop in blood-pressure, assuming caffeine normally keeps it elevated (I have no clue, this is my best guess).

    Went through the headaches, lethargy, dizziness. I’m on to tea now. Quit coffee once before, but I would go into a book-store or electronics store chain, smell it brewing and give in, thinking I had “conquered” it.

    Coffee is the major nemesis for me, not tea. Did quit caffeine once before and even tea became too strong for me to drink at all, as well as decaf coffee.

  • Sam

    I just so happen to stumble across this website, and I’m not sure if its normal, But I’ve been off caffeine for about 2 days or so. My last day was Sat for caffeine. I drank a half a pot of coffee one night, and a 2 liter of soda daily when I could, And today is just like THE worst day, lol Loaded up with anxiety, Sweats, and I feel like I’m going insane, Caffeine headaches are the worst.. and I’ve quit cold turkey.. any sugestions? and really good posts from all of you =)

  • Americano

    Beware of caffeine poisoning! Google it.
    My daughter was running on coffee and energy drinks and went toxic.
    Numerous visits to doctors put her on numerous drugs (including seizure medication which is a strong, nasty and powerful drug).
    NO DOCTOR EVER CHECKED FOR CAFFEINE POISONING but the symptoms of caffeine poisoning can look like a lot of deseases so you can end up going down a lot of cul de sacs.
    If you’re a heavy caffeine drinker and start to experience odd symptoms, cut out caffeine before getting into a lot of drugs and x-rays. A year later and thousands of dollars later I learned this lesson the hard way.

  • Txm

    i’m on my second day off caffeine, yesterday was a pretty regular day, today i experienced only symptoms number 1 and 2; actually some of the other symptoms like depression and irritability seemed to improve, so all in all it wasnt that bad

  • emlee

    I only started drinking caffeine about two weeks ago. Today, I woke up and didn’t have my usual cup of caffeine, and I started to feel nauseous and had a POUNDING headache! I didn’t realize what it was until my friend told me to google caffeine withdrawals!!!!! Craziness!!! Two drinks of drinking A MILD coffee.

  • Renee

    Like Steve…I get the base of the head headaches,and they feel like you were hit with a sledge hammer. Yikes. It only last for a few days, but Excedrin helps, because it has caffeine in it, that is why the others don’t work! Good luck.

  • joan

    I only drink caffeine sodas maybe 3-4 times a week and I hate coffee.
    BUT, EXCEDRIN, I was taking like 3 times a day because of Menopause headaches. I finally figured out that the caffeine was causing re-bound headaches. It’s been 1 day and the pain in my head has already lessened, I am using Tylenol to help.
    I am super lethargic, and want to lay around and sleep. Have kids and Grands I take care of so I can’t do that, they think I am lazy and don’t understand.
    Has anyone found anything that helps with the energy level to rise again?

  • ted

    Hey Joan. Time.. In a couple weeks you’ll feel normal again 🙂

  • Thomas

    I had a sinus infection about a month ago, felt miserable for 2 weeks. I was drinking alot of water to help flush my system. I would have my soda with lunch and dinner (Mountain Dew) and a big mug of coffee (32oz) at night after work. I finished my antibiotics for the infection a week ago and still just didnt feel right. Couldnt explain it. Today at work I was finally beginning to feel back to normal. It was a good morning, the afternoon however almost killed me. I went from ok to ZERO in less than 6 hours. Came home miserable, took a quick shower and off to bed. My wife woke me up when she got home by placing a cold Mountain Dew on my head saying you need this. After drinking the soda I have come to realize how bad of a caff addiction I have. Seriously think about how much soda or coffee or just caffeine intake you have. for me… a 6pk of 24oz MD a day and a 32oz coffee at night after work was the norm but being sick I wasnt drinking nearly as much. Starting tomorrow I ween myself off this addiction.

  • Laurie

    I stated each day with a coke and sometimes had one for lunch; that’s it…but I did this for 30 years. I went off caffeine slowly over two weeks and I still had all of the symptoms except insomnia, flu, an constipation. It has been exactly one month, the headaches are mostly gone; it’s the depression and lethargy I STILL have. I am usually a happy and cheerful person with lots of positive energy. I hope I get that back…this is miserable.

  • Jim

    Hi, I’ve been addicted to Diet Pepsi for years now. my usual intake is about 4 liters a day or more. Yup, two two liter bottles a day at least!! friends and family have been all over me to get off of it due to the aspertame and other chemicals in it that doesn’t help my allready bad health. this week I’ve tried to start weaning off of it, by going down to one two liter bottle a day, and replacing the other with water and gatorade. First came the headaches, then the tiredness, lethargy, can’t concentrate, and one symptom not listed above, my vision is blurry! I wear glasses anyways, but I noticed I have to squint to sharply focus on everything more than a foot away. It’s only been a few days, so I guess I have a ways to go. (great) LOL.

  • Coffeelover99

    I drank coffee soda and also had chocolate daily for a few years, about 800 mg a day and recently quit…three days have passed and i have had a headache that pulses in my neck and eyes…irritability and definetly lethargy and tiredness i find myself laying around the house…feeling a little depressed but i know about a week and ill be okay…headache is a pain in the ass…

  • Shell

    I’m trying to get into shape and I basically lived off of Red Bull and Dr. Pepper. I gave up caffine completely and I feel as though my head is going to explode, I feel sooo sick, I have an upset stomach, I can’t get to sleep till 2 or 3 AM and when I do fall asleep I wake up around 12 PM still moping around and exhausted. My eyelids are so heavy. My fiance experienced the brunt of my irritability… we had a huge fight over something so small basically because he was getting on my nerves about it. I did have a coke once after a few days when the symptoms were subsiding and I was throwing up and suffering from a really bad headache. I couldn’t function for a day. After that I avoided caffine again and experienced the symptoms again. I still am suffering from it. :/

  • Angela

    I am on day 4 (I think) of cold turkey. I don’t drink that much caffeine, maybe 1 can worth a day, but have for a good part of my 46 years. I felt I needed to quit for better long-term health. I have all symptoms except 3, 9, 10. The headaches and lethargy have been the worst, but today I’m having a hard time staying awake. My husband has tried several times to quit smoking and he doesn’t have this array of withdrawl symptoms. Tomorrow I’m going to try taking a B12 to see that that helps my energy levels. This totally sucks!

  • Sarh

    I am getting off of caffeine because I do not feel good on it. When I was in HS, I went 2 yrs without caffeine and it was the best I every have felt. I even withdrew myself then, plus I have health issues now and need to get off of it. The worse symptom I am having right now is very very sleepy and irritable.

  • Laurie

    I reported in one month ago. At then end of the month, I had conquored nearly all of the symptoms except the headaches, depression and lethargy. Ok, so here I am at the end of two months. The depression is gone. I feel much more like my old self. Still some lethargy and still some migraines. Prior to going off caffeine, I had one migraine/month. Month # 1 after giving up caffeine, I had 6 migraines which lasted 1/2-4 days (and bad). During month #2, the migraines were cut in half to 3 migraines 2-3 days each (really bad a night). We will see what month #3 brings. But, I am much, much, much better and happy to almost be my old self. For those who get over the symptoms in 2 weeks, you are extremely lucky.

Last Modified: November 10, 2017

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
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