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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  • sophie

    I miss my energy drinks 🙁 I was on 5 cans a day including about 4 coffees. My mum won’t buy me any more energy drinks as she said I have drunk enough. Yesterday my headache was awful! All I wanted to do was sleep and I woke up sweating. Painkillers didn’t help at all! Lastnight I didn’t sleep well, I kept waking up every hour. Today is a bit better, a slight headache but still can’t be bothered to get out of bed.

  • Ashraf Uddin

    not only did i have a massive headache, but i also vomitied pretty violently, its been over a week, and although I have recovered from the withdrawal symptoms, my personality has gone a bit dry. I used to be cheerful 🙁

  • I caught the flu in a worse way than ever and was put on the strongest anti biotic on the market. At the same time my wife suggested that I should completely stop drinking coffee and replace it with water. At that stage I used to drink about 12 coffee mug sizes of coffee a day and about 1 liter of coke which I also stopped abruptly. I got worse and worse and then drank “******** to dry up my nose” for the first time with all my other medication. About half an hour later I woke up and had the worst feeling of depression, fear, anxiety and loneliness possible. I literally wanted to run into a wall to try and get the fear out of my mind. I drove around in the middle of the night crying but nothing would help. Even if someone offered me the whole world on a platter it would have made no difference on my emotions. I was literally on the verge of committing suicide as I then believed it was the only way possible of escaping from my anxiety. The next morning the doctor gave me anti depressants, but the moment it wore out the depression got worse and it made me scared of using those drugs. Five days after it started my son phoned me unaware of what was happening. He suggested that I should drink less coffee and more water and when he found out I completely stopped coffee and coke he told me to immediately dink some coffee. Literally within ten to twenty minutes I was my old self again. I believe caffeine withdrawal can be far more dangerous than we think, especially when your immune system is at an all time low. The real danger in my situation was that I didn’t even knew that “caffeine withdrawal” existed, which if I did, could have spared me the worst imaginable five days of my life. It’s more than likely that individuals might actually have committed suicide without ever having known what instigated it.

  • As a matter of interest.
    Imagine being injured in a car accident and then not being able to consume coffee or smokes for a while due to being in a coma or internal injuries. Your only lifeline being a drip. What consequences will this have on your body mentally and physically, especially being comatosed. We so often hear of people passing on when at first it seemed as if they were getting better. Does anyone know if any research have ever been done regarding withdrawal of substances that patients might have been subjected to, especially those not capable of fending for themselves. I’m of the opinion that in a weakened state of the body withdrawal symptoms can have far more serious consequences on patients probably even resulting in death.

  • Anna

    I decided I needed to quit the coffee habit and cut back on chocolate. It’s been 2 days since I quit cold turkey. I feel like I have a hat on my head that is too small with most of the pressure on my temples & the very top of my head, general fatigue combined with a very restless sensation that only seems to lessen with movement.. like walking. My hip bones ache, and the center of my back across my shoulders ache too. On the plus side I seem to have a clear head and I notice I am seeing things more clearly (literally). It isn’t as bad as yesterday but not by much. I am hoping it won’t last like this for too long. I had been drinking a minimum of 4-10 oz cups a day along with about 2 to 3 ounces of dark chocolate daily for the last 5 to 8 years… sometimes I would slow down but never really stopped cold turkey. I have had some very weak green tea today along with other herbal teas to satisfy the desire for a hot drink. I can’t say the green tea has alleviated my symptoms at all but psychologically it makes me feel better… warm comfort..

  • Peter

    I was on at least a 24 pack of mountain dew a day for about 6 months. massive headache for about 3 weeks, insomnia like a mother ******, and major depression

  • ted

    24 Mountain Dews a day? Wow, that’s a lot of caffeine, but also think of all the sugar you were consuming! 1,128 grams or 2.5 pounds!

  • Matt

    Have given up coffee several times. Each time, withdrawal is worse. This time around: severe headache to the point where I was writhing around trying to find some position to lay in that wouldn’t hurt. Also intense nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, coupled with fatigue, and general malaise. It’s no fun. I think this time I’m done for good — I never want to go through it again.

  • Christine

    About 6 years ago, I did a caffeine detox and went delusional. Very cool feeling but also very crazy.(:

  • cathy

    I am on my fifth day of giving up coffee. Have had the dull headaches, and the intense stabbing ones, when you walk. Woke up with a massive headache day 4. I am fit and healthy, and work as a remedial massage therapist. My knees, hips, gluts and lower back have a consistant dull ache. This is effecting my sleep also. I have found walking, yoga, and generally moving around lessens the aches. Flush your system with lots of water daily and Mrs Braggs apple cider vinegar – 1 capful in a large glass of water also helps. I have noticed over the last year of having quite a “foggy” mind, nothing seems quite clear, so I will be interested in if this changes. I was only having approximately 2 cups a day, one instant one perculated.Oh yes, and before the detox, I was going to the toilet first thing in the morning religiously, this has slightly changed. More sluggish. I have a dark patch that has developed under my left eye about 2mm in size. I am hoping this detox will flush this through my system – believing it is just a build up of toxins.

  • Becky

    It took a week for the intense lower-back pain and throbbing to dissapate. The pain radiated down my legs. Felt all-over flu-ish. Brain not in gear! I miss it. Swiss Miss sugar free hot chocolate is good, but there’s no caffeine in it.

  • Arazel

    If I run into a time where I am not able to get a caffeine supplement of some sort for a long period of time, I get headaches…*bad* headaches. Ive had migraine headaches, and caffeine withdrawal headaches, and they will push the envelope of the pain that migraines can make you go through, to the point where death sounds like a pretty good idea. One of my favorite energy drinks is the Rockstar X2 Caffeine drink. It has 250mg of caffeine in one 12oz can.

  • REMIS

    I QUITE DRINKING SODA COLD TURKEY I WAS DRINKING A 12PACK OF DR PEPPER A DAY FOR YEARS. WHEN I QUITE I FELT ALRIGHT BUT A WEEK IN A HALF LATER I DUNNO I FEEL A LITTLE DEPRESSED IS THIS NORMAL

  • Alini

    I’ve been drinking coffee my intire life, and if i’m at work I can have 4 cups per day. Today is my 4th day without coffee and I had a massive headache, like one of the worst hangovers of my life. I couldnt barely open my eyes. Painkillers did not help… Until I had excedrin (65mg caffeine). After that awful feeling I really want to desintoxicate… We need to be more conscious of everything we are putting in our bodies daily.

  • Bambi

    I was drinking only two cups of coffee a day, but I quit a couple of days ago without tapering off. Yesterday I felt like I had the flu– I suffered not only a throbbing headache but body aches (especially neck and back) and the chills. My eyes also feel tender, puffy and they’ve been watering.

    I’m pretty surprised by the intensity of these symptoms, so I’m relieved to see that other people are also experiencing these and more. I’ve quit drinking coffee at other times but after this ordeal I’m really going to try to avoid caffeine entirely or at most indulge in the occasional beverage. It’s disturbing that I’m basically in the same boat as any heroin junkie– needing the drug regularly just to feel normal and not sick!

  • Jane

    I decided a week ago that my daily consumption of diet colas was way too much. I wasn’t concerned about my caffeine intake, more to do with the other ingredients in colas.

    I’ve been feeling poorly all week. ‘Symptoms’ I’m experiencing (if they are all due to the cola withdrawal) are:

    sick headache at the front, between the eyes

    insatiable thirst for water

    general malaise

    aching shoulders/upper back

    lethargy

    excessive tiredness and yawning

    watery eyes

    As I say, not sure if all these symptoms are attributed to cola withdrawal, but I wasn’t experiencing them directly before quitting. I’m going to persevere but if these feelings don’t subside by the end of next week, well, I have a doctors appointment already booked for an unrelated matter so I will mention it then.

  • James

    I have been drinking about 40-50 ounces of Diet Mt. Dew every day for the past 2 years, and this week I decided to stop drinking caffeine cold-turkey. I started things off on Monday with a 48 hour fast – no food, no caffeine, nothing but water for 48 hours. I have done a fast before, but not in the last 2 years since I’ve been hooked on caffeine.

    This first day was miserable. I was not only hungry, but I had a POUNDING headache by about 2pm and I was so groggy and lethargic that I was literally slurring my words as I was talking to customers at work. People probably thought I was either drunk or on drugs, even though the opposite was true – I’m trying to get OFF of the drug caffeine.

    Day two wasn’t as bad because the hunger had subsided (after about 24 hours the body goes into a semi-starvation mode and hunger goes away), but the caffeine withdrawal symptoms got worse. The good ol’ headache started in at about 2pm, and by 4pm I was having shoulder, neck & foot cramps. And none of this is due to lack of food because like I said I’ve done fasts before and never experienced any of that. And it wasn’t for lack of water either, because I was making sure to drink a 16 ounce bottle of water about every 2 hours.

    Day 3 I was back on food, but the caffeine withdrawal symptoms persisted and got worse. That day I was dragging SO bad by about 3pm that I actually had t otake off work for about 30 minutes and take a nap to recover a little. And the muscle pains got worse, with shooting pains in my neck and shoulders.

    Day 4 (today) The same symptoms persisted today, and by about 2pm again my headache was SO bad that I decided I couldn’t take it any longer and I gave in and had a can f soda. I was mad at myself for giving in, but about 10 minutes after drinking it all of the symptoms subsided and I feel so much better.

    I think I’m going to have to slowly wean myself off of the caffeine rather than just quit cold turkey, otherwise my life is going to be miserable until the symptoms go away. I’m truly amazed at the affect that the caffeine (rather lack thereof) has had on my body! Now that I know how serious of an affect it can have, I’m going to make sure to not let myself get so addicted to it again in the future. It is a VERY powerful stimulant.

  • ted

    Jane, they are all associated with caffeine withdrawal, in a couple of weeks you’ll be as good as new. 🙂

  • Sam

    I’ve been a coffee addict for nearly 3 years now. I experienced severe nausea for a while therefore I had to quit drinking hot drinks because it worsened it. It was hell quitting coffee! I’ve been fatigued for a week; no motivation whatsoever to study or to do anything. I have to wake up every day with a stiff body – Especially my legs. Every one noticed that my irritability (even towards silly things) has increased. It’s like PMS. I’ve experienced nearly every thing listed.

    I’ve been deprived from caffiene against my will .. oh well i’m still going to get back. Life’s short.

  • Amber

    I started weaning myself off caffeine a few weeks ago. (Used to have 5 cans of rockstar a day, now only one or two.) But Ive been having blood noses along with the usual symptoms. Is this particularly bad? Im not prone to random nose bleeds and before this I had only had a few when I bashed my face against something.

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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