Caffeine Withdrawal Depression (A complete guide)

In this article, we will talk about caffeine withdrawal depression. Caffeine is a stimulant which increases our alertness, wakefulness and energises us. While it is good to consume in moderate amounts, it can have serious consequences once lost control. The realisation of being addicted to caffeine is known as caffeine addiction and an effort to withdraw from this addiction is what we call- caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine withdrawal and depression do not have a direct link but it does affect us indirectly, leading to depression. 

Caffeine Withdrawal Depression

People experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly stop consuming caffeine. It can lead to a lot of side effects like sleep dysfunctions and other mood disorders, including depression.

Anxiety and depression often occur together, and caffeine can worsen anxiety. Stopping abruptly can worsen depression. If you regularly drink caffeinated beverages, quitting can cause a depressed mood until your body adjusts. It can also cause other signs and symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue and irritability.

Caffeine has the power to alter the levels of certain neurotransmitters in our body. These neurotransmitters include adenosine and dopamine. Adenosine is a central nervous system neuromodulator which has certain receptors. When adenosine binds to these receptors, neural activity slows down and we begin to get ready to sleep. Now, caffeine acts as adenosine-receptor antagonist. It binds itself with these receptors, and thus, the brain is active again.This is the biological cause of why we consume caffeine.

Dopamine is a feel good hormone and is produced in increasing amounts when the brain is activated. This is linked to the effect caffeine has on the adenosine. 

Naturally, when someone is addicted to caffeine, there will be a lot of chemical imbalance in our body which will lead to sleep disturbances. We all know what happens when we do not get a minimum 7 hours of sleep for at least one day. Our entire sleep schedule ruins up and we become cranky, annoyed and this in turn, leads us to have low energy. A long term occurrence of this cycle becomes serious when one tries to quit caffeine. The body is already habituated in consuming caffeine and getting high moods that a sudden stop in it, leads to depressed moods. This is the link between caffeine and depression. 

Reasons for consuming caffeine

Coffee is one of the main sources of caffeine. A hot cup of coffee is one of the first things many people do. It almost is like their morning routine! There are many reasons why people like to indulge in this beverage but one of the primary reasons is the caffeine that it has. Consuming caffeine gets the blood moving and hence makes them feel energised. No wonder, we all need a good cup of coffee right in the morning! 

This caffeine has highly addictive powers. It is for this reason that people cannot stop their coffee consumption. There are people who go for multiple cups of coffee and this soon becomes an addictive habit. To prevent this, people opt for decaffeinated coffee. 

Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal Depression 

When one is addicted to caffeine and tries to quit, he/she will suffer from some withdrawal symptoms. We will discuss how all the physiological reasons lead to mental distress upon quitting of caffeine. These are a few withdrawal symptoms which surface due to quitting caffeine:

  • Headache

People consume caffeine to treat migraines and headaches. This is because, consumption of caffeine lessens the blood flow in our brain. The blood flow is lessened due to the narrowing of our blood vessels, which then leads to low amounts of blood flow.

What happens when one stops consuming caffeine altogether? A possible reason is that the blood vessels may broaden up. This leads to the opposite action of what happens when we consume caffeine. Blood rushes in our system, leading to throbbing headaches and migraines. 

These headaches may vary in its severity. The more our body struggles to set into the new change, the more severe the symptoms. The person experiencing these symptoms and wants to treat them, can have caffeine but only in lesser amounts than before. It may be difficult but not impossible.

  • Fatigue

Caffeine is usually consumed when our body feels tired and sleepy. We all know that our body is tired when our brain slows down in giving instructions. To activate our brain, we consume caffeine. Caffeine helps in blocking the adenosine receptors which in turn, help in staying awake. Adenosine is a chemical which induces sleep and hence, blocking of it would actually counterbalance its effects. 

This shows that caffeine helps in altering our central nervous system activity. We say this, because adenosine is a central nervous system neurotransmitter. 

When the caffeine gushes in our body, the entire central nervous system is activated and hence we feel energised till the effect of it lasts.

When we suddenly stop its consumption, the body is not used to being in its original motion. It is almost like being jet-lagged. We need to train our body to live without caffeine and this training leads to fatigue as the body and brain, both, have drained out in their resources. 

Being in a continuous fatigue state, we experience stress. This stress then may lead to anxiety and it may consequently, lead to mood disturbances. This imbalance in our body has dreading consequences on our mental state and once we slide into depressed mood patterns, it is very difficult to pull ourselves back. 

  • Changes in the mood

Caffeine has a huge impact on our mood patterns. This is because caffeine alters the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in our system. A low dosage of it is considered to be healthy as it helps in being energised and happy for some time. But, when it goes beyond normal levels, it is dangerous as the body becomes conditioned to feel happy only in the presence of caffeine.

Caffeine alters the dopamine levels in our body, dopamine is a feel-good hormone and neurotransmitter. It is responsible when we are in an elated mood and opposite, when depressed. It is secreted in access amounts when we are happy, and when we are depressed, it is in lesser amounts. 

A study done in 2015, showed that caffeine is not directly related to dopamine secretion. However, it does increase the availability of dopamine receptors. An increasing availability of dopamine receptors is responsible for happiness that we experience.

Glutamate is another neurotransmitter that is affected because of caffeine. It helps in enhancing our memory and communication. Consuming caffeine helps in the activation of this neurotransmitter. 

Our brain also produces norepinephrine when we are experiencing stress or danger in a process called ‘fight or flight’ response. It increases our heart rate, blood circulation and blood glucose levels. 

When we abruptly stop caffeine, dopamine levels may be dropped increasingly making us feel depressed. As the ‘feel good’ hormones are only secreted in lesser amounts, it is frustrating to be without caffeine as the body is used to it. Norepinephrine may be produced excessively because of the sudden increase in anxiety due to this sudden change in chemical levels.

  • Difficulty Concentrating

Caffeine is extremely useful in increasing our concentration levels. A study from 2016 found that regular intake of caffeine lowers the risk of dementia or cognitive impairment in women aged above 65 years.

Another study from 2019 found that there was an improvement in the working memory capacity and reduction in response time in humans.

When someone abruptly stops consuming caffeine, they may be affected by this as the neurotransmitters are already conditioned to be released only when caffeine is  consumed. A sudden termination may lead to abnormalities in mood and concentration. 

How to cope with caffeine withdrawal depression

Inorder to tackle depression from caffeine withdrawal, the person may need to first tackle the withdrawal of caffeine. This may not happen overnight but needs to be done gradually.

A study from 2019 showed that reducing caffeine consumption over a 6-week period led to successful, long-term quitting of caffeine with minimal side-effects.

To avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms, these may be done:

  • Find acceptable caffeine replacements: people who are addicted to coffee, can replace it with decaffeinated coffee. Make sure to do this gradually. Another way is to just mix some decaf coffee in regular coffee. Additionally, they may also replace one or two cups of coffee with a decaf. 
  • Gradually reduce caffeine intake: Do not try to go all big in quitting caffeine. Do it slowly and gradually to let your body get used to this cessation. 
  • Enough sleep: Sleep helps in repairing the body and this also helps in combating fatigue. Getting a well-rested sleep will help in overcoming the dependency on caffeine

FAQ’s: Depression from Caffeine withdrawal

How long does depression last after quitting caffeine?

Depression from quitting caffeine can last from two to nine days.These withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, mood disturbances. Anyone who regularly consumes caffeine and abruptly stops the use may experience these symptoms. They can range from moderate to severe, depending on how well your body copes with it. Generally, anyone who is addicted to caffeine, does come out of it gradually.

How long does fatigue from caffeine withdrawal last?

Fatigue from caffeine withdrawal may last from two to nine days. The severity of it depends on the amount of caffeine consumed by the person daily. The more cups of coffee consumed, the more will be the fatigue.

How do I overcome caffeine withdrawal?

Applying peppermint oil can help relieve the symptoms. It typically works because topical menthol which is an active ingredient in peppermint oil, helps reduce headaches as it reduces the inflammation of tight muscles.

Staying hydrated: Staying hydrated can reduce the risk of getting headaches. Consuming caffeine makes you urinate more, increasing the amount of bodily fluid in our body. When there is too little fluid in our body, the brain shrinks in size which results in pulling away from the skull. This sets off pain receptors in the protective membrane which surrounds the brain. This is the reason why we get headaches.

Stimulating your pressure points: A research study showed that one month of acupressure treatment relieved chronic headaches better than muscle relaxants. One pont tied to headaches is located between the base of your thumb and your index finger. When you have a headache, try pressing this area for 5 minutes and make sure to repeat it on the opposite hand.


In this article, we have extensively covered the meaning of withdrawal symptoms depression. We explored clinically how it is linked to depression and the many ways to overcome it. 

Do let us know in the comments below if you have any thoughts or queries.