What are the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal?

Regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine. When caffeine intake is reduced, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine. In response to this oversensitiveness, blood pressure drops dramatically, causing an excess of blood in the head (though not necessarily on the brain), leading to a headache.

This headache, well known among coffee drinkers, usually lasts from one to five days, and can be alleviated with analgesics such as aspirin. It is also alleviated with caffeine intake (in fact several analgesics contain caffeine dosages).

Often, people who are reducing caffeine intake report being irritable, unable to work, nervous, restless, and feeling sleepy, as well as having a headache. In extreme cases, nausea and vomiting has also been reported.


Caffeine and Health. J. E. James, Academic Press, 1991. Progress in Clinical and Biological Research Volume 158. G. A. Spiller, Ed. Alan R. Liss Inc, 1984.


Day 4

After my last post I have stopped caffeine completely, cold turkey. I know tapering is probably more sensible and gentler, but I’ve found just stopping is the only way that works for me. It’s a little brutal, but it’s clean and clear – I’m either using caffeine or I’m not. I’ve done it a few times now, so knew what to expect and haven’t been disappointed. Day 1 was OK, no major problem, then days 2-3 is feeling foggy with headaches and no energy. Day 4 adds muscle aches (back and legs) and some anxiety. I’m not sure how long these symptoms will last or if there’s anything new to come.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but caffeine really does have a profound effect, both mentally and physically. It certainly impacts very negatively on my quality of life. I’m really hoping that a day at a time I’m done with it and will get to experience how I feel with prolonged abstinence. So far the longest I’ve managed is 4 months, so a way to go yet before I’m breaking new ground….


Hi, Rob, glad you decided to have another shot at kicking caffeine to the kerb. I'll just add (and I know you know this) but please beware - you've been here before, probably many times. You know that in a few weeks - or a couple of months - you'll get that mind pattern emerging again i.e. 'it would be great/ a good idea/ I really do fancy a coffee' etc. I would advise you (if you possibly can) to nip that in the bud and immediately do something different to break the pattern: eat and/or drink something else, buy yourself something, go to the gym, ANYTHING! From my experience (and I know everyone's is different), one of the major hindrances to stopping is the habit. We work on automatic a lot (especially under the influence of caffeine related brain fog) and drinking coffee is a habit BUT then there are the habitual thought patterns which also control us. I found that I really did have to change my mindset or the way I thought about coffee. That is, I don't want to give it up and I can't do it - to, oh boy, I sure do want to give it up to I CAN do it. So the key for me really was changing not only what I did but also how I thought. It was not too long before redbush tea became my new habit and. amazingly, my taste buds adjusted to it and I really do love it now (with almond milk, especially) and I no longer wake up wanting coffee, at all - and this from the person that used to be waiting for the newsagent to open at 6.00am so I could buy yet another jar! I think I've said it took about just over 30 days to establish the new pattern.
I've had 2 coffees since July 25th and none at all since August 10th - but I'm still counting myself as caffeine-free for 37 days. It's a bloody miracle lol. The longer I go without, the easier it gets. There have been some times of temptation but it's easier to ride through. I still feel very tired but my depression is improving on some days. Dreaming all the time - I'd forgotten what's it's like. Felling generally more positive and I think that's because I KNOW I've beaten it, at last, and, importantly, I know it will keep getting better. There will be a test coming up for me this week as I'm going on holiday to Lyme Regis. But I'm confident that I will be able to walk on by - and there's a lovely cafe there which sells redbush tea and gorgeous organic, dairy-free cakes etc so I can have a treat, if I want.
Anyway, good luck, Rob, and hope things worked out with your lady.
60YH - keep going and try to remember the improvements you've already experienced.
All the best to everyone and thanks very much for all your support and advice. Jackie

I think you are doing it the

I think you are doing it the right way, I would not have had to taper if I had "only" had your symptoms (symptoms which I still have after more than 2 years), I tapered because the anxiety and depression I suffered after cold turkeying were so bad that I was suicidal. That was a great shock to me because I only drank one cup (or sometimes) 2 cups of tea a day, so I had not anticipated any real problems, and the whole process has been unbelievably difficult and protracted.

I still don't completely understand why you find it so difficult to stay off, and I conclude that perhaps your symptoms are so mild that they don't really make your situation feel all that different when you are off the stuff. You say that it impacts negatively on your quality of life, but if it affected you as badly as it does some people (myself included), there just isn't any choice to make, life is impossible on caffeine, so there isn't any temptation, (other than to stop the withdrawal symptoms) to ever drink it again.

I don't think you have ever gone into any great detail about how badly caffeine does affect you mentally and physically, and I would appreciate it if you could speak about it in a little more detail. I don't suppose that you will, because I expect you will interpret this post as hostile, but it is not written in a hostile spirit, I really want to understand, and I apologise if I have minimised the effects caffeine has on you (through not having enough information).

Anyway, I wish you luck in this last attempt to get off the stuff and I hope that you get through this miserable process and recover in as short a time as possible and I am already feeling envious because I am absolutely certain that you will be fully recovered before I am and I am already over 2 years into it.

PS Rob I just reread some of

PS Rob I just reread some of your older posts, and I want to apologise for my earlier one. I think the reason you have found it difficult in the past to stay off caffeine is that it makes you feel so low and/or depressed that you forget that it it is the caffeine doing it to you, and you have some to make yourself feel better. So this time try and be aware that depression stops your brain from working normally, and try and have some reminders around that it will pass, all you have to do is to let time pass, and that if you give in, it will carry on. (Possibly have some printed reminders on the wall?).

Anyway, I can't delete my earlier post, but I can try and correct it here.

Hello Shane, (and Jackie

Hello Shane, (and Jackie andRob), I am sorry to hear of your struggle Shane, although it is a great relief to me that I am not the only one going through this who is taking far longer than normal, and don't get me started on doctors either. I have been off (and i had to taper off over 3 or 4 months), for 2 years and 5 months, and I still have fatigue, back ache, muscle weakness, anxiety, gastric issues, palpitations, and a few other symptoms which I can't remember at the moment. Have you read "welcome to the dance" by ruth Whalen yet? Thank you so much for posting, I had given up on ever hearing of anyone else in a similar position to me, and I felt so isolated.

Jackie I am glad to hear that you are finally off the toxic drug caffeine, and Rob, I agree with Jackie, you really have to want to be off it, then there is no question of going back on. And maybe you don't really need to come off it, there must be some reason why you don't ever manage it. If you do, then you will get off it when you are good and ready, in the meantime, why beat yourself up about it?


Sorry to hear you're still struggling - but I do hope it's still gradually improving. Thanks for your good wishes - it's been a long struggle to get off but I know I've beaten it. The key thing is changing the habits - and it's beginning to really work. I'm not waking up, automatically wanting coffee - I'm wanting my breakfast and redbush tea! In the end, it took just over a month to change to habit - but I do have to be vigilant for those temptation times (and my stress) and just ride through. The more you ride through, though, the easier it gets.
I also think that turning my attention to other things - not thinking about it all the time - helped me. Well, best of luck to you and everyone - and, Rob, let us know how you're doing. Shane, I did reply to you, as well, and you have my support! One last thing - if I can finally do it - anyone can! All the best - Jackie

I give up too

Well what a day of caffeine madness I had yesterday. My head ran away with me and I ended up having a useless day at work and then splitting up with my girlfriend. I’m hoping my love life can be salvaged, but the silver lining is that I think (maybe, at long last…) I’ve realised that caffeine and are completely incompatible. While others seem to drink it with impunity, for me it’s a toxic drug. It makes me crazy and feel physically awful; I’m sick of being a slave to a dirty brown liquid. So as of today I’ve just stopped it – no coffee, tea, coke or chocolate.

As Jackie says, I’ve withdrawn from the battle; I’ve been in the ring day after day for years and I’m fed up with it, I don’t want to do it anymore. I can feel the withdrawal starting, but I really don’t care what happens. If I have to spend the next couple of days with my head on my desk whimpering and groaning then so be it. I know life is better without it, so that’s what how I’m going to live from now on.


I haven't had a chance to read that book but it sounds like I should, thanks for the heads up on the book. Everybody thinks I'm crazy that all this health started once I quit caffeine, which doesn't help any while I suffer through it. I think the whole thing is crazy myself but never the less it's the truth. Thanks for responding to my post as it has been many of your posts that have helped me keep a little sanity through all of this. It definitely helps to know that your not the only one suffering through it. The doctors have given up on me and I them.

Hi Shane and Jackie, the book

Hi Shane and Jackie,

the book is full of interesting research but it's a bit of a muddle to read, worth it for the info though.
I am remembering some of the other symptoms that I still have (the feeling of being off balance when walking that you mention has stopped), but I am still getting severe muscle cramps, headaches now and then, bad mood now and then, insomnia alternating with better sleep, aching hips, eye problems, vision problems, there are more but I can't think of them at the moment.

Things are gradually (so gradually) improving, but I only have had the occasional "good day", I had one about 2 months ago, it was so wonderful, I slept well and woke up feeling so incredibly well, no pain anywhere , I could walk upright without my bent back which makes me look about 100, and for the entire day i was full of energy, outgoing and happy, I thought it would last but unfortunately back to "normal" the next day.

I am assuming that is what it will be like when this process is over, and I CANNOT WAIT.
have you experienced any good days or longer yet?
Believe me Jackie, once you have experienced one of these "good days" you will NEVER want caffeine again.

Keep on keeping on ...

PS I have found meditating 3 times a day to be very helpful indeed

Long time reader- first post

Hello all! I've been visiting here about a year and a half. This site and the good people who have shared their stories here have helped me keep my sanity over the last almost two years since I've stopped caffeine . Since stopping I've had the most severe and bizzare symptoms. It is still hard to believe that just stopping something as "harmless" as caffeine has led to all of this suffering. But, I quit cold turkey twice. The first time after about three months I couldn't take it anymore so I started back, but because the gastro issues got so bad again ( which is the main reason I stopped to begin with) I stopped cold turkey again. The withdrawal symptoms were even more severe the second time! Now it has been almost two years and though better I still am far from a 100%. I have had problems after quitting caffeine that I NEVER had before I stopped! Some but not all would include: panic attacks, dizziness, tinnitus, eye problems, feeling as if a tight band is wrapped around my head, agoraphobia/social anxiety, feel unsteady when walking like I'm floating, flashes out the corner of my eyes where I think I see a spider, hip and back tightness and pain, arms and legs going numb, catastrophic thinking, etc... One of the most infuriating and frustrating things is that the doctors do not listen! They may say that I was self-medicating with caffeine but they don't answer what I was medicating. Basically they all say there is no way quitting caffeine would cause all the symptoms that I have had and especially for as long as I've had them, even though NONE of them started until I stopped. One doctor said that she didn't know what was wrong but maybe I should just start drinking coffee again or take an SSRI. Now, if one doesn't know what's wrong why prescribe a med?! Sounds like throwing darts in the dark to me. Anyway, thanks for listening to my ramblings. :)

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.