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.

References.

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.

Comments

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….

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?

60YH

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.

Book

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. :)
Shane

Shane

Hey, Shane, that's great news that you've managed to get off 'I'm going to eat your brain' caffeine! It takes a lot of effort and struggling to achieve, as the effects, for some people, can be absolutely terrible, as you found out. I, too, experienced many of the symptoms you've described (and more) and it really does feel like hell when you're in it, doesn't it? I, too, had terrible anxiety and fear - and that tendency towards catastrophic thinking etc etc and it took me over 3 years of weaning and finally pulling myself out of the battle. I am better than I was - but still get foggy, anxious and oh so tired/ill. But, it can only get better and, although I think I still have an emotional pull towards coffee - it actually smells like poison when I go past Costa etc. Incidentally, I've been drinking redbush tea and that is starting to be my comfort drink so it just shows that those patterns can be changed. Anyway, good luck and glad you found the board helpful. Oh, and don't get me started on doctors lol. All the best. Jackie

P.S. Rob, Worked for me Too, Me Too!! and 60 year habit - how's it all going?

Hi Jackie

Good to hear from you Jackie - it sounds like you're finally off caffeine. How long has it been now ? I've been on and off it for quite a while now and am currently on it again and (surprise) am feeling dreadful. I'm currently thinking I need to quit and am embroiled in my usual battle with myself about whether I should go cold turkey or taper off. I don't know what it is with me, but for some reason I see tapering as weak or some kind of failure - that if you haven't stood toe to toe with caffeine and defeated it cold turkey it somehow doesn't count. How did you quit ? All help/instructions gratefully received ! Rob.

Rob

Hi, Rob, sorry you're still struggling - I know what it's like as I've been there for well over 3 years (as you know). You asked how I quit - I'm not exactly sure as I haven't quite worked it yet myself - it's all been a bit a a blur, tbh. I'll have a go at working through it.
Quick recap : Years of strong coffee drinking (6 or 7 big ones a day) and didn't want to give it up. Started to feel terrible - knew I should stop but, again, didn't really want to. I think that's important - do you really WANT to give it up?? Started to wean 3 years ago last March and got it down to 1 to 2 mugs a day with the odd over-indulgence.
In May of this year, I felt that I couldn't really go on any longer as I felt so terrible- I knew I had to try. I went on holiday and didn't have any for 4 days (good for me!!) but then we met up with friends from the area, went for a meal and bang - back to over-indulgence, including food (always had a bad munchie thing with coffee as it spikes the blood sugar). It was the final lesson.
Quit again on 24th May, managed for 32 days but fell down the rabbit hole again for a few weeks when I got very stressed and angry one time. It felt like I'd never had those 32 days off - very weird. But then I realised that it really is about -

CHANGING THE MINDSET or the way you think - you think you're down the rabbit hole and can't get out - but you can. You do have the power to stop if you try. I realised that EVEN IF I DID FALL OFF THE WAGON the odd time, I could get back on it again as long as I KEPT ON TRYING TO TAKE IT IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION i.e not having the damn stuff and not overeating. All my life I've either been over- indulging/drinking coffee etc OR dieting/eating healthily/ abstaining and that became a battle. I noticed you used the word battle - and that I said I 'withdrew from the battle' and I realised that that's what I did. I stopped beating myself up, forgot about how some people can quit, just like that - and just tried to deal with it as MY addiction and stopped comparing my self to others. I stopped again on July 25th and have had 2 coffees in the 31 days. BUT THAT'S OK, AS LONG AS I KEEP TRYING TO TAKE IT IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, it doesn't matter if I have the odd slip up. Like you, I used to think that I had to go cold turkey, or that weaning was weak or the everybody else can do so I'm a failure - well, all of that is rubbish, Everyone's brain chemistry is different and we all create these patterns of behaviour and the more times you do something, the deeper it gets embedded as your neurological patterning and, this, coupled with the addictive nature of caffeine is a killer.

One important thing that helped me was REPLACING THE HABIT WITH A MORE HEALTHY OPTION. I used to have just coffee for breakfast. Now I have a proper, healthy breakfast and redbush tea with almond milk. I love it! The tea is fast becoming my comfort drink. I drink about 4 a day and that is fast becoming MY NEW HABIT. Eating has been fantastically good for over a month and I don't want to eat the crap now I'm off coffee.

I still have a emotional pull to coffee sometimes - you know, the social, 'we're having a nice coffee together' thing - which is a false god, of course, but the physical cravings are diminishing fast. I KNOW I'm beating it and that feels damn good. I'm starting to dream again and sleep better. Importantly, I've not been giving in when stressed or when I walk past Costa and the smell gets to you. Writing this has made me really realise how much it's changed or, rather, that I've changed and that I have a new attitude and am starting to feel hopeful and excited about life again.

Well, sorry to ramble, as usual, but I'm still foggy etc although it's improving. I hope there's something here that will help you. Anyway, good luck and feel free to ask me anything etc. All the best, Jackie

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