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What is Hangover Anxiety (Hangxiety)?

Most people have experienced the typical physical symptoms of a hangover, like the pounding headache, the nausea, and the craving for greasy food. But, hangover symptoms aren't always just physical. Hangovers can have psychological symptoms as well, especially feelings of anxiety. This phenomenon is happening so frequently it's even been given a name: hangxiety.

What Causes Hangover Anxiety?

Research has shown that anxiety is actually a pretty common hangover symptom. Someone may experience hangover anxiety for many of the same reasons they suffer from other hangover symptoms, including sleep deprivation and dehydration.

Here are the possible causes of hangover anxiety:

  • Alcohol-related actions — a lot of people who experience anxiety after consuming alcoholic beverages spend a lot of time the next day wondering and worrying about what they may have done or said while they were drunk. Decreased cognitive function, including a lowered ability to make good decisions, makes drunk people do things they otherwise would never do. Thinking about this out-of-character behavior after a night of heavy drinking and its possible ramifications can lead to serious anxiety.
  • Anxiety disorder — some people who suffer from an anxiety disorder may turn to alcohol to try and cope with the symptoms. As a result, they will feel more anxious when abstaining from alcohol. Some people with chronic anxiety have reported that their symptoms of anxiety are worse during a hangover. A lot of hangover symptoms, including dehydration, exhaustion, and upset stomach, can make anxiety symptoms feel worse, both physically and emotionally.
  • Shyness — a study found that alcohol shows a unique link between shyness, alcohol consumption, alcohol use disorder, and anxiety. The researchers found that drinking led to slightly decreased feelings of anxiety among shy people. But, the next morning, they felt more intense anxiety levels. The researchers also found a link between alcohol use disorder and anxiety elevation among shy people in the study.
  • Alcohol use disorder — people with alcohol use disorder may experience withdrawal when they abstain from alcohol. Anxiety may also be a symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Some research suggests that people suffering from social anxiety disorder have a higher risk of  displaying alcohol dependence or abuse signs.
  • How much alcohol was consumed — the risk of developing hangover-related anxiety may increase with how much alcohol a person consumes. This is because higher alcohol consumption increases other hangover risk factors, including dehydration. 
  • Emotional withdrawal — a type of emotional withdrawal can occur after drinking. When endorphins (your body’s painkillers and feel-good hormones) are distributed in response to traumatic events, their levels reduce over several days. Drinking alcohol also encourages the release of endorphins and an eventual comedown. At first, consuming alcohol may seem to help ease any physical or emotional pain you are feeling. But it won’t make it go away.
  • Dehydration — drinking alcohol tends to make people urinate more than usual. Plus, you likely do not drink enough water when you are drinking. This combination can lead to dehydration. Dehydration can contribute to anxiety and other shifts in mood.
  • Folic acid deficiency — not consuming enough of the right nutrients can also affect mood symptoms. There is a link between low levels of folic acid and conditions like depression or anxiety. Alcohol can also lead your folic acid levels to reduce, which may explain why you may feel anxious the next day. People are also more likely to eat foods that may trigger anxious feelings.
  • Medication use — specific medications, including some anxiety and anti-inflammatory medicines, may interact with alcohol. Your drugs may be less effective, and you may feel restless, irritated, or anxious. Some medicines also carry a risk of other side effects, such a memory impairment or severe physical health issues like ulcers or organ damage. If you are taking any medications, check the label to ensure that it is safe to drink alcohol while taking them. The same goes for any herbal supplements, vitamins, and other over-the-counter medicines.
  • Alcohol intolerance — alcohol intolerance is otherwise known as alcohol allergy. It can cause many symptoms that mimic the physical symptoms of anxiety, including nausea, rapid or pounding heartbeat, head pain, and fatigue. Other symptoms include sleepiness, excitability, warmth, and flushed and red skin, especially on your face and neck.
  • Poor sleep — alcohol can affect your sleep, even if you do not drink too much. Even if you get plenty of rest after drinking, it is unlikely to be of the best quality. This can leave you feeling a bit off. If you live with anxiety, you are probably familiar with the following cycle with or without alcohol. That is, your anxiety symptoms worse when you do not get enough sleep, but those same symptoms make it challenging to get a good night’s sleep. It is also possible to experience mood-related symptoms, like feelings of anxiety.

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Symptoms of Hangxiety

People with hangover-related anxiety will likely also experience other "typical" hangover symptoms, including excessive thirst, increased fatigue, feeling slow or less alert, an upset stomach, or body aches. 

They may also experience: 

  • A "knot in the stomach" feeling
  • A racing heart
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt and shame
  • Restlessness making it hard to concentrate, sleep, or relax 

Why Doesn't Everyone Get Hangover Anxiety?

Some people can wake up after drinking feeling relaxed and ready for the day ahead of them. Others may remain wrapped in a blanket, worrying about the previous night’s events.

Highly shy people may have a more significant risk of experiencing hangover anxiety. In a study of 97 people with varying levels of shyness, researchers found that those who drank alcohol saw some reduction in anxiety symptoms while drinking. But those who were very shy tended to experience higher levels of anxiety the next day.

Alcohol is renowned for making anxiety worse, so you may be more prone to hangover anxiety if you already had the condition to begin with.

How to Deal with Hangover Anxiety

When experiencing symptoms of anxiety after drinking, there are a few things people can do to manage the hangiexty, including:

  • Manage physical symptoms — the common symptoms of a hangover can take a toll  on the body. Dealing with the initial symptoms will help you get back to feeling like yourself. You should do this by focusing on rehydration and continuing to drink plenty of water the next day. Avoid cravings for greasy fast food and eat light, mild foods. It is also important to get some sleep while recovering from a hangover. If it's difficult to sleep, take a shower and put on some relaxing music.
  • Over-the-counter pain relief — when experiencing a pounding headache or other physical pains, take ibuprofen to help ease the discomfort.

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How to Manage Symptoms of Hangover Anxiety 

Some people find that deep breathing or meditation is very helpful for fighting feelings of anxiety while hungover. Deep, slow breathing allows you to relax and will help slow down a racing or pounding heart. 

Mindfulness meditation is another relaxation technique that can help alleviate hangxiety. You can meditate while sitting or recovering in bed by practicing deep breathing. Lie down, close your eyes, and focus on your thoughts. Also focus on any physical and emotional feelings in the current moment. 

A significant part of hangxiety is caused by stressing out about what you might have said or done while drinking. It's a good idea to step back and realize that other people are likely worrying about the same thing.

How To Prevent Hangover Anxiety

There are ways to prevent hangover anxiety, including:

  • Keep a log of anxiety episodes that follow drinking to understand whether certain situations or quantities of alcohol cause you stress.
  • Drink plenty of water during and after alcohol consumption and avoid coffee and other stimulants that may enhance anxiety.
  • Do not drink too quickly. Try to stick to one alcoholic drink per hour. If you tend to drink quickly, try enjoying a simple drink on the rocks that is better suited for sipping.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Have a snack or quick meal before you want to drink. If that does not fill you up, you can always eat while drinking or just before bed.
  • Only drink with trusted friends to avoid people and places that may encourage behavior that you regret the next day. You may also decide to prevent hangover anxiety by reducing or eliminating alcohol altogether.
  • Set yourself a limit. When you are in the moment and having fun, you may feel fine to keep drinking. However, those drinks will eventually catch up to you. To help you stick to it, try to partner with a friend so you can hold each other accountable.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Mental Health

If you find yourself drinking a lot and frequently feel anxious the next day, you may have a drinking problem. There are a few different treatment options available for people suffering from alcohol addiction, including detox programs, inpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment at a certified treatment center or medical center.

Hangxiety: Common Questions and Answers

Why do I feel weird days after drinking?

Hangovers can linger if you don't focus on your overall wellness in the days after a night of drinking. It's especially important to get enough sleep when fighting off a hangover.

How do you stop hangover shakes?

People typically experience the hangover shakes after consuming a lot of alcohol. 

The best way to ease hangover shakes is by rehydrating, consuming vitamin B, and drinking sports drinks that contain electrolytes.

How long does hangover anxiety last?

Anxiety from a hangover is not usually long-lasting and should not last longer than a day. In cases where anxiety lasts much longer, it may be a sign of a different issue, such as alcohol withdrawal or another anxiety disorder.

Does drinking water help hangxiety?

A large part of fighting hangxiety is fighting the hangover's symptoms. The more water you drink to rehydrate yourself, the faster your hangxiety will go away. Try drinking Gatorade, Pedialyte, Powerade, or similar noncarbonated sports drinks for added electrolytes and minerals.

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Resources

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Anxiety after drinking and what you can do about it. (n.d.)., https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/anxiety-after-drinking-and-what-you-can-do-about-it

Beth Marsh, Molly Carlyle, Emily Carter, Paige Hughes, Sarah McGahey, Will Lawn, Tobias Stevens, Amy McAndrew, Celia J.A. Morgan. “Shyness, alcohol use disorders and ‘hangxiety’: A naturalistic study of social drinkers.”’ Personality and Individual Differences,Volume 139,2019,Pages 13-18,ISSN 0191-8869, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2018.10.034

Pross, Nathalie et al. “Effects of changes in water intake on mood of high and low drinkers.” PloS one vol. 9,4 e94754. 11 Apr. 2014, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094754, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984246/

Book, Sarah W., and Carrie L. Randall. “Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Use.” Alcohol Research & Health vol. 26,2 (2002): 130–135, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683821/

Benson, Sarah et al. “Alcohol Hangover and Multitasking: Effects on Mood, Cognitive Performance, Stress Reactivity, and Perceived Effort.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 9,4 1154. 17 Apr. 2020, doi:10.3390/jcm9041154, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7230521/

Ezequiel Leite, L, and M J Nobre. “The negative effects of alcohol hangover on high-anxiety phenotype rats are influenced by the glutamate receptors of the dorsal midbrain.” Neuroscience vol. 213 (2012): 93-105. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.04.009, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22516019/

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