Caffeine withdrawal symptoms
This page lists some of the most commonly reported side-effects of stopping consuming caffeine, i.e. 'caffeine withdrawal symptoms'.
Further explanation and comment follows below this list of typical caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
- Headache/s - 'caffeine withdrawal induced' headaches are sometimes described as beginning "behind the eyes" and developing up and across the front of the head. Note that headaches can also be caused by dehydration so if ceasing to consume drinks that include caffeine one should usually replace them with alternatives, e.g. water or fruit teas, so that overall fluid intake is not reduced. See the health benefits of drinking water re. importance of intake of sufficient fluids.
- Irritability - impatient adverse emotional reactions to issues that might not otherwise seem to justify such responses. (If affected by this symptom one might consider the Bach Flower Remedy - Impatiens).
- Inability to concentrate - another emotional reaction, though slightly different from the above. Sometimes one just needs to be patient with oneself while the body adjusts back to normal.
- Lethargy - in between (3. Inability to concentrate) and (5. Drowsiness), lethargy is a form of mental / intellectual or physical indifference or sluggishness that may be combined with mental exhaustion, e.g. the sense of "can't be bothered to ... e.g. think". (If affected by in this way one might consider the Bach Flower Remedy - Olive and other appropriate remedies).
- Tiredness / drowsiness - the extent of drowsiness may vary from person to person but in general it is not surprising that discontinuing significant intake of a stimulant may result in the sensation of relative lack of energy. Some people mention experiencing extreme drowsiness, even sleepiness. Anyone feeling this way should take into consideration safety implications re. certain activities and responsibilities e.g. operating machinery.
- Insomnia (i.e. difficulty sleeping) - sounds like the opposite of the above but has been reported. Different people respond in different ways and insomnia is a possibility, perhaps associated with the nervous emotional effects of (2. Irritability).
- Feeling low - an emotionally depressed state of feeling generally negative, pessimistic and unhappy is among the emotional effects sometimes mentioned as a possible caffeine withdrawal symptom. This may be associated with (4. Lethargy), though these are subtly different.
- Pain in the body (e.g. stomach, upper body, and joints) - may appear within 12 to 24 hours after ceasing caffeine intake, peak at about 48 hours, and may last some days.
- Reduced blood pressure - may not be thought of as a negative effect if the person's blood pressure was initially considered too high and might even have been a consideration in his or her decision to discontinue intake of caffeine.
- Sinus issues - such as the sensation of blocked sinuses or mild flu-like symptoms.
- Temperature sensation effects - such as feeling unusually hot or cold for periods of time.
- The numbers shown above are included for ease of reference to this list and to help people who remember numbered lists more easily. The numbers have no significance in terms of the sequence, severity or likelihood of caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
- The above list is intended to include the most commonly reported symptoms of caffeine withdrawal but is not necessarily complete. Unusual reactions are less commonly reported but sometimes happen and may be serious.
Caffeine withdrawal effects vary considerably. Some people may not notice many symptoms, if any. However, overall, caffeine withdrawal symptoms may last up to 9 days if the person had previously been consuming considerable quantities of caffeine.
Definitions and Discussion Re. Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms:
Caffeine is a common antinutrient that is found in coffee, tea and many soft drinks (incl. carbonated soft drinks that are popular with children).
Withdrawal symptoms are noticeable, usually negative, temporary side-effects of discontinuing consumption or use of a substance, e.g. something previously ingested as part of food or drinks, or a drug or drugs that could have been swallowed, injected or inhaled.
Drinks that include caffeine are very popular. Caffeine isn't just found in coffee (decaffeinated coffee excepted), but also in tea and many soft drinks including carbonated (fizzy) drinks and especially 'energy drinks' popular with some sports enthusiasts, students and other people who are working late and turning to 'energy' / caffeinated drinks to help them stay awake and mentally alert.
Although some people choose to avoid it, caffeine isn't generally considered harmful to most people if consumed in modest quantities. In general, caffeine has a stimulant effect and a diuretic effect. See effects of caffeine on the body for further details.
The notion of withdrawal symptoms implies that the person experiencing them has had, and as a result of discontinuing use of the substance is probably recovering from, a dependence on or addiction to the substance that has been 'withdrawn', i.e. that he or she has ceased to use. Some addictions are relatively mild in that the person notices some 'withdrawal effects' for perhaps a few days and during that time may also experience desire or craving for the withdrawn substance (or the foods or beverages that contain it). Such a situation may be considered 'mild' if the withdrawal symptoms are not so distressing that the person needs professional or chemical help to discontinue use of the substance, and his or her usual daily activities are not significantly affected e.g. he or she goes to work as usual - but perhaps just doesn't go outside for his or her usual 'smoking break' because he or she has decided to stop smoking and therefore uses the time in another way. However, some addictions are extreme - professional medical help and in some cases also medication is often required to discontinue use of 'hard drugs' and the withdrawal symptoms in such situations may be persistent extremely unpleasant.
How to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms:
If someone who consumes a lot of caffeine decides to discontinue caffeine intake, the effects of caffeine withdrawal can be managed by reducing consumption gradually before stopping intake of caffeine altogether.