11 Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal You May Not Know About

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are one of the side effects of abstaining from drinking alcohol over a long period. The following symptoms should be reported to a medical professional if you or a loved one experience them. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome presents differently for each individual, but craving for alcohol, anxiety, trembling, and confusion are common symptoms.

What causes alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

The function of the brain is altered by excessive drinking over a long period of time. After a while, people cannot live without a drink, and within hours of their last drink, they have mild or severe symptoms. Why does this happen?

As a CNS depressant, alcohol can overstimulate the brain’s GABA receptors. GABA inhibits or reduces the activity of neurons. A key function of GABA is its role in cognition, behavior, and stress response. During periods of overexcitation, GABA may assist in controlling fear and anxiety.

Drinking heavily or frequently causes the brain to adjust its function to this level of stimulation. The brain cannot produce these levels of GABA when a person stops drinking and shifts into overdrive. It causes symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, sweating, and nausea.

People’s withdrawal symptoms vary based on how much and how often they drink. Heavy drinkers are likely to have more severe symptoms than those who drink moderately.

Typical Symptoms

1. Anxiety

Anxiety is a typical alcohol withdrawal symptom. The feeling can be expressed as nervousness, fear, or tension. Occasionally, it can become severe and debilitating.

Anxiety makes it more difficult to deal with the physical and emotional symptoms. It also increases the likelihood of relapse.

During withdrawal, you can manage anxiety in a variety of ways. Meditation or yoga can be useful techniques for relieving anxiety. For others, medications work well to reduce anxiety symptoms.

2. Depression

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You might feel sad or hopeless, lose interest in your favorite activities, have trouble sleeping or eating, and feel tired all the time if you suffer from depression. See your doctor if you experience signs of depression during your alcohol withdrawal. Depression can be managed, and you can stay sober with the right therapy.

A sudden change in brain chemistry may be responsible for alcohol withdrawal depression. When people drink alcohol, certain neurotransmitters in their brains change in level. They can experience depression when the levels of those neurotransmitters decrease suddenly when they stop drinking.

Alcohol withdrawal may also trigger a previous episode of depression. Alcohol is often used as self-medication by people suffering from depression. An attempt to quit drinking may trigger the recurrence of their depression.

3. Headache

Headache can occur at any withdrawal stage but is most common in the early stages. The pain can be mild or severe, and other symptoms, such as dizziness, may accompany it.

During alcohol withdrawal, brain chemistry changes occur, which may cause headaches. For some people, medication may help to relieve the headache. Some people find that drinking clear fluids such as water or juice help.

A severe headache that does not improve with self-treatment should be treated by a doctor. Extreme headaches can signify delirium tremens (DT) and require prompt medical attention.

4. Sweating

Through sweating, the body eliminates toxins and cools itself. Withdrawal causes sweating because the body attempts to eliminate toxins built up over time. Sweating can be so intense that it dehydrates the body. Therefore, increasing the intake of water is necessary, which also speeds up the detoxification process.

5. Puffy limbs and face

During the process of breaking down and removing alcohol from the body, the liver, kidneys, and digestive system work hard. It is, however, more difficult to eliminate the toxin from the body if too much alcohol is consumed or an underlying health condition interferes with their functioning. Drinkers often exhibit swelling of their faces and limbs as well as redness of their faces.

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6. Depersonalization

Depersonalization, often accompanied by anxiety and panic disorders, is a consequence of the adverse effects of alcohol on the nervous system. People experiencing this experience feel like they are outside of their lives. They have a blurred perception of their thoughts and bodies and a dreamlike experience of what they are experiencing. An addiction or withdrawal that is more severe or longer in duration may result in a more severe disorder.

7. Fatigue

Tiredness is a common alcohol withdrawal that persists for weeks and even months. There are several possible reasons why fatigue is experienced. One is that dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea can lead to tiredness. Another reason is that caffeine and other stimulants often used to counteract withdrawal effects can cause fatigue. And finally, the stress of dealing with the symptoms can wear down a person’s energy reserves.

8. Nausea

As a result of withdrawal, nausea is a common symptom. This condition may last a few days or weeks and may be mild to severe. Some people also suffer from vomiting. Drink plenty of fluids and eat light, bland foods if you suffer from nausea and vomiting. Ginger tea may also help. If your nausea persists for more than a few days, consult your doctor.

9. Shakiness

It is common for people who are withdrawing from alcohol to feel shaky. This can happen eight hours after the last drink and may peak during the first two or three days of withdrawal. In severe cases, the shakiness may persist for weeks or even months.

Shakiness is caused by sudden cessation of alcohol consumption. When you drink alcohol, it binds to receptors in your brain, producing a feeling of pleasure. When you stop drinking, these receptors are no longer occupied, so you may feel anxious or shaky.


10. Hallucinations

A common side effect of quitting smoking is hallucinations. These typically occur within 24 hours of quitting.

Hallucinations come in many different forms, including seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling things that don’t exist. People may feel scared or panicked when they encounter them.

Usually, alcohol-related hallucinations disappear after a few days. However, if they are causing significant distress or making it difficult to function, you should seek medical help.

11. Insomnia

Those who are trying to give up alcohol may experience insomnia due to the disruption of sleep patterns caused by alcohol. This makes giving up alcohol more difficult.

If you wish to improve your sleep while abstaining from alcohol, there are several ways to do so. Make sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine and nicotine in the evening, and refrain from watching television or using electronic devices after dark.


Seeking professional assistance if you experience any alcohol withdrawal symptoms is important. Depending on how much alcohol is consumed, your body type, and other factors, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that are unique to you. We recommend treatment programs if you cannot stop drinking alone. Many people have found them to be very useful in overcoming their addiction.

Butterworth, A. T. “Depression associated with alcohol withdrawal; imipramine therapy compared with placebo.” Quarterly journal of studies on alcohol 32.2 (1971): 343-348.

Jesse, Sarah, et al. “Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: mechanisms, manifestations, and management.” Acta Neurologica Scandinavica 135.1 (2017): 4-16.

Apristach, Cynthya, Cedric M. Smith, and Robert B. Whitney. “Alcohol withdrawal syndromes—prediction from detailed medical and drinking histories.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 11.2 (1983): 177-199.