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5 Scary Signs of Caffeine Withdrawal + Why You Should Keep Going

Forearmed is forewarned, particularly when you're trying to detox from caffeine. From jitters to headaches and muscle aches, here's what to watch out for - and why these are good signs! (We know, it doesn't feel that way while you're in the middle of a breakdown!)

If you're a regular coffee drinker or a fan of caffeinated beverages, you might have experienced the dreaded caffeine withdrawal at some point. This unpleasant experience often occurs when you decrease or abruptly stop consuming caffeine. But why does this happen, and what are the signs you should watch out for? Let's dive into the five signs of caffeine withdrawal and why pushing through might be worth it in the long run.

It's worth noting that there is a correlation between addictive behaviours and excess sugar consumption, as we know too much of the sweet stuff sugar can make our brain crave that dopamine high.

Our IQS 8-Week Program is designed to help you reduce your sugar intake and been proven to significantly reduce fatigue, inflammation, gut issues, bad skin, bad sleep and SO MUCH MORE! It's because we give you the full tool kit to help you learn more about sugar, what it does to your body and why you should care. Plus, it's delicious! You get full weekly meal plans, recipes, motivation, expert advice and more to help you on your journey to better health. Sign up HERE!

How Do You Know You’re Addicted?

Recognising addiction to caffeine can be challenging because caffeine is widely accepted and consumed in many forms, such as coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and even certain medications. However, there are several signs that can indicate caffeine addiction. Here are some common indicators: 

Dependence + Cravings

Feeling a strong urge or craving for caffeine, often leading to regular consumption throughout the day.

  • Inability to Quit: Difficulty cutting back or quitting caffeine despite wanting to do so.


  • Increased Consumption: Needing to consume more caffeine over time to achieve the same effects.
  • Diminished Effects: Not experiencing the same level of alertness or energy from usual doses of caffeine.

Behavioural and Psychological Effects

  • Ritualistic Behaviour: Engaging in specific rituals or habits related to caffeine consumption, such as always starting the day with coffee or having a particular brand of energy drink.
  • Interference with Daily Life: Allowing caffeine consumption to interfere with daily activities, relationships, or responsibilities.

Using Caffeine to Cope: Using caffeine to cope with stress, boost mood, or alleviate fatigue.

Physical Effects

  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing disrupted sleep patterns due to caffeine consumption.
  • Physical Symptoms: Experiencing physical symptoms such as jitteriness, restlessness, increased heart rate, digestive issues, or headaches related to caffeine intake. 

Psychological Effects

  • Anxiety and Irritability: Feeling anxious, irritable, or on edge, especially when caffeine consumption is reduced or stopped.
  • Mood Swings: Experiencing mood swings or fluctuations in mood related to caffeine consumption.

Compulsive Behaviour

  • Constant Thinking About Caffeine: Obsessing over when and where to get the next caffeine fix.
  • Ignoring Health Risks: Continuing to consume caffeine despite being aware of its negative effects on health – perhaps your doctor has warned you to cut back on the brew for the sake of your heart health, but you just can’t get through the day without your 5 cups of Joe.  

If you recognise several of these signs in yourself or someone else, it may indicate a dependence or addiction to caffeine – if you're concerned about your caffeine intake or experiencing difficulty cutting back, consider seeking support from a healthcare professional or counsellor. They can provide guidance and strategies to help you reduce caffeine consumption and promote a healthier lifestyle. Now let’s dive into some of the side effects you may experience on your journey to detox from the stuff!


One of the most common signs of caffeine withdrawal is a throbbing headache. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that constricts blood vessels. When you abruptly cut off your caffeine supply, the blood vessels in your brain dilate, leading to that pounding sensation in your head. While headaches can be debilitating, they're often a sign that your body is adjusting to the absence of caffeine.

Keep Going: By persevering through the headaches, you're breaking free from the cycle of caffeine dependency. Once your body adapts to functioning without caffeine, you'll likely experience fewer headaches and enjoy more consistent energy levels. 

Fatigue and Lack of Energy

Feeling sluggish and exhausted even after a good night's sleep? Caffeine withdrawal could be the culprit. Caffeine blocks adenosine, a neurotransmitter responsible for promoting sleep and relaxation. Without caffeine, adenosine can bind to its receptors freely, causing drowsiness and fatigue. While it might seem counterintuitive, pushing through this fatigue without caffeine can actually lead to more sustainable energy levels in the long term. But why does quitting make you want to lay down initially? Your body experiences a sudden increase in adenosine activity. As a result, you may feel excessively sleepy and fatigued as your brain struggles to adjust to the absence of caffeine. Caffeine withdrawal can also disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness – but over time, you’ll be able to right this wrong, but in the meantime, you may struggle with poor sleep. Fatigue during caffeine withdrawal can manifest in various ways, including:

  • Generalised Tiredness: You may feel an overwhelming sense of tiredness and find it challenging to stay alert and focused throughout the day.
  • Physical Weakness: Fatigue can make your muscles feel heavy and weak, making even simple tasks feel more strenuous than usual.
  • Mental Fog and Sluggishness: Your cognitive function may decline, leading to difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, and slowed thinking.
  • Decreased Motivation: Fatigue can sap your motivation and make it difficult to muster the energy to engage in activities you typically enjoy.
  • Increased Irritability: Feeling tired all the time can leave you feeling irritable and easily frustrated, affecting your mood and interactions with others.

Keep Going: Pushing through the fatigue means you're building resilience and training your body to rely on its internal energy sources rather than external stimulants. Over time, you'll likely notice improved energy levels and greater vitality without needing caffeine to get through the day.

Irritability and Mood Swings

Ever felt unusually grumpy or irritable when you missed your morning cup of coffee? Caffeine withdrawal can mess with your mood by affecting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which regulate mood and happiness. When you suddenly stop consuming caffeine, your brain chemistry changes, leading to mood swings, irritability, and even depression for some people. However, powering through these mood swings can help your brain recalibrate to a more stable state over time.

Keep Going: Enduring irritability and mood swings shows that you're committed to breaking free from caffeine dependency. As your body adjusts, you'll likely notice more stable moods and reduced anxiety, leading to an overall improved sense of wellbeing.

Difficulty Concentrating

Caffeine is known for its ability to enhance focus and concentration by blocking the action of adenosine, which promotes relaxation. Therefore, it's no surprise that when you stop consuming caffeine, you might experience difficulty concentrating or feel mentally foggy. This is because your brain is adjusting to functioning without the artificial boost provided by caffeine. However, persisting through this adjustment period can lead to improved cognitive function and mental clarity in the long run.

Keep Going: By pushing through difficulty concentrating, you're promoting long-term cognitive health and mental clarity. Over time, you'll likely notice improved focus and productivity without relying on caffeine to stay alert. 

Muscle Pain and Stiffness

Muscle pain and stiffness are lesser-known symptoms of caffeine withdrawal but can still be quite bothersome. Caffeine has analgesic properties, meaning it can reduce pain perception. When you withdraw from caffeine, you might notice increased muscle soreness or stiffness, especially if you're used to relying on caffeine to alleviate discomfort. However, by persevering through these physical discomforts, you allow your body to adapt and find natural ways to manage pain.


Caffeine is often associated with a sense of alertness and wakefulness, but what many don't realise is that it can also exacerbate anxiety symptoms – but when you consider how a cup of Joe affects your nervous system, it’s no wonder. So, don’t be surprised when you decide to cut back on caffeine or eliminate it altogether, you also experience your classic, heart-racing anxiety.

The Anxiety-Caffeine Connection: Caffeine is a stimulant that increases the production of adrenaline, a hormone associated with the body's fight-or-flight response. While this can be beneficial in moderation, excessive caffeine consumption can lead to overstimulation of the nervous system, resulting in symptoms of anxiety such as jitteriness, restlessness, and increased heart rate. When you abruptly stop consuming caffeine, your body experiences a sudden drop in adrenaline levels, which can trigger withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety. This can catch many people off guard, especially if they weren't aware of the connection between caffeine and anxiety.

Take a look at some of the common signs you’re dealing with anxiety after ditching your morning brew:

  • Jitteriness and Restlessness: Feeling on edge and unable to sit still is a common symptom of anxiety during caffeine withdrawal. It's as if your body is craving the stimulant effects of caffeine to calm those nerves.
  • Heart Palpitations: Caffeine withdrawal can lead to palpitations or a sensation of irregular heartbeat. This is because caffeine constricts blood vessels and increases heart rate, and when you stop consuming it, your heart has to readjust to its natural rhythm.
  • Catastrophic Thinking: Anxiety during caffeine withdrawal can sometimes manifest as catastrophic thinking, where minor issues feel like major crises. You might find yourself catastrophising about everyday situations, making mountains out of molehills.
  • Hypervigilance: Withdrawal from caffeine can make you feel hyper-alert or hypervigilant, where every sound or movement seems amplified. This heightened state of awareness can contribute to feelings of anxiety and unease.
  • Mood Swings: Anxiety during caffeine withdrawal can also lead to mood swings, with emotions fluctuating between feeling overly anxious and irritable to moments of sadness or despair 

Why You Should Keep Going

Breath through it! A bit of yoga helps those cravings. 

Experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – or should we say coffee? – but it's important to remember that they're temporary and a sign that your body is adjusting. Here are a few reasons why you should push through the discomfort:

  • Improved Sleep: Caffeine disrupts sleep patterns, so cutting back can lead to better quality sleep in the long term.
  • Stable Energy Levels: Relying on caffeine for energy can lead to energy crashes. By breaking the caffeine cycle, you can achieve more stable energy levels throughout the day.
  • Enhanced Mood: While caffeine can temporarily boost mood, long-term consumption can lead to mood swings and dependency. Breaking free from caffeine can result in more stable moods and reduced anxiety.
  • Better Overall Health: Excessive caffeine consumption has been linked to various health issues, including heart palpitations, digestive problems, and increased stress. Reducing or eliminating caffeine can lead to better overall health and wellbeing.

Remember, it’s Normal!

Experiencing anxiety during caffeine withdrawal might seem counterintuitive since many turn to caffeine to combat fatigue or improve mood. But, it's essential to understand that it's a normal part of the process. Here's why:

  • Neurotransmitter Adjustment: Caffeine alters brain chemistry by blocking adenosine receptors and increasing dopamine production. When you quit caffeine, your brain needs time to readjust to its natural neurotransmitter levels, which can lead to mood swings and anxiety.
  • Adrenaline Withdrawal: As mentioned earlier, caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline. When you stop consuming caffeine, your body experiences a sudden decrease in adrenaline levels, which can trigger anxiety symptoms.
  • Psychological Dependence: Many people develop a psychological dependence on caffeine to cope with stress or boost productivity. Breaking this dependence can be anxiety-inducing as you learn to deal with stressors without relying on caffeine.

Reducing the Withdrawal Effects


  • Gradual Reduction: Instead of quitting caffeine cold turkey, consider gradually reducing your intake over time. This can help minimise withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as dehydration can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to help calm your mind and body.
  • Get Adequate Sleep: Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night to support your body's natural recovery process.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and avoid alcohol and other stimulants to support overall well-being during caffeine withdrawal.

The Stages of Caffeine Withdrawal

Stage 1: Onset (6 to 12 hours after last dose): The first stage typically begins within 6 to 12 hours after your last dose of caffeine. You may experience symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability as your body adjusts to the absence of caffeine. Mood disturbances and difficulty concentrating can also occur during this stage.

Stage 2: Peak Symptoms (24 to 48 hours after last dose): The peak of caffeine withdrawal symptoms usually occurs within 24 to 48 hours after cessation. Headaches may intensify, and you may experience increased fatigue, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. Some individuals may also experience flu-like symptoms, including nausea, muscle aches, and even fever.

Stage 3: Decline (48 hours to 1 week after last dose): Symptoms gradually start to subside during this stage, typically within 48 hours to one week after quitting caffeine.

Headaches may lessen in intensity, and energy levels may begin to improve.

However, some individuals may continue to experience milder symptoms such as fatigue and irritability.

Stage 4: Resolution (1 to 2 weeks after last dose): By the end of the second week, most withdrawal symptoms should have resolved completely. Energy levels stabilise, and mood disturbances diminish. Some individuals may experience lingering symptoms, but they are usually less severe than during earlier stages.

Quitting Sugar + Caffeine

On the 8-Week Program, we encourage detox from addictive substances and treating addictive behaviours, and uncovering the mental health issues behind it – many of our members are surprised to find a link between their addictive behaviours and diet. Addressing multiple addictive substances simultaneously, such as sugar and caffeine, can be crucial for effectively managing addiction. Here's why it's important to consider both substances and how addressing addictive behaviours can contribute to better mental health:

  • Interconnectedness of Addictive Behaviours: Synergistic Effects: Sugar and caffeine can have synergistic effects on the brain, reinforcing addictive behaviours. Consuming sugar often leads to energy crashes, prompting individuals to reach for caffeine for a quick pick-me-up. Likewise, caffeine can increase cravings for sugary foods to counteract its bitter taste. 
  • Cycle of Dependency: Engaging in one addictive behaviour, such as consuming excessive sugar or caffeine, can reinforce the cycle of dependency on other addictive substances. Breaking this cycle requires addressing all addictive behaviours simultaneously.
  • Psychological Dependency: Similar Reward Pathways: Both sugar and caffeine activate reward pathways in the brain, leading to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Over time, individuals may become psychologically dependent on these substances to regulate mood and manage stress. 
  • Cross-Tolerance: Developing tolerance to one substance can increase tolerance to others, making it harder to experience pleasure from natural rewards and reinforcing addictive behaviours.
  • Impact on Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression: Excessive consumption of sugar and caffeine has been linked to increased anxiety and depression symptoms. Addressing these addictive behaviours can lead to improvements in mood. 
  • Stress Management: Using sugar and caffeine as coping mechanisms for stress can perpetuate a cycle of dependence and exacerbate mental health issues. Learning alternative stress management techniques is essential for long-term mental health.
  • Importance of Detoxification: Resetting the Brain: Detoxifying from addictive substances like sugar and caffeine allows the brain to reset its reward pathways and regain sensitivity to natural rewards. 
  • Promoting Self-Awareness: Detoxification provides an opportunity to become more mindful of the role addictive behaviours play in one's life and uncover underlying mental health issues contributing to addiction.
  • Holistic Approach to Health: Addressing Underlying Issues: Treating addictive behaviours involves addressing the root causes, such as emotional eating, stress, or unresolved trauma. Taking a holistic approach to health involves addressing physical, emotional, and psychological aspects of addiction.
  • Promoting Sustainable Lifestyle Changes: Making lasting changes to diet and lifestyle involves addressing addictive behaviours and cultivating healthier habits. By adopting a balanced approach to nutrition and wellness, individuals can experience long-term improvements in health and wellbeing.

                    Need a little help? Discovering a healthier, happier you has never been easier with the IQS 8-Week Program app. How does it work, you ask? Let's break it down. Personalised programs tailored to your health goals await at your fingertips after your answer a short quiz, and voila – you're matched with the ideal program crafted by the top experts in diet and nutrition. But that's not all. Need extra support? Say hello to 1-on-1 health coaching. Our dedicated team is here to guide, motivate, and arm you with the tools you need to succeed, every step of the way.

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