Updated on April 3, 2024
7 min read

Can You Get Anxiety from a Hangover?

What is Hangover Anxiety (Hangxiety)?

Hangover symptoms aren’t just physical. Psychological symptoms like anxiety occur, and it often happens that it is collectively known as hangxiety.

Initially, drinking alcohol can flood the brain with dopamine, a feel-good chemical tied to your brain's reward system. However, once you stop drinking, your dopamine levels decrease, causing anxiety.

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What Causes Hangover Anxiety?

Research shows that anxiety is a common hangover symptom. Additionally, heavy drinking causes an influx of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), making a person feel calm and relaxed.

When alcohol is removed from the picture, it takes away feelings of calmness, leading to anxiety.

Aside from these, other factors may lead to hangover anxiety, such as:

1. Alcohol-Related Actions

People may experience anxiety from excessively thinking about their actions the night before. You may worry about doing or saying something terrible while drunk.

Doing or saying something out-of-character happens because alcohol decreases cognitive function, causing you to do things you may otherwise not.

2. Anxiety Disorder

Someone with a mental health issue like anxiety disorder may use alcohol to self-medicate. Abstaining will lead to minor withdrawal symptoms, causing increased anxiety.

Some people with chronic anxiety have reported worsening symptoms during a hangover. This is because many hangover symptoms can worsen anxiety. 

These symptoms include: 

  • Dehydration
  • Exhaustion
  • An upset stomach

3. Shyness

There may be a link between shyness, alcohol consumption, and anxiety. Researchers in one study found that drinking led to slightly decreased feelings of anxiety among shy people.2

However, the following day, they felt more anxious. The same study also found a link between alcohol abuse and anxiety elevation among shy people.2

4. Alcohol Use Disorder

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may experience withdrawal symptoms abstaining from alcohol. Anxiety may be a symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Some research suggests that people suffering from social anxiety disorder have a higher risk of AUD.

5. How Much Alcohol Was Consumed

The risk of developing hangover-related anxiety may increase with how much alcohol a person consumes. Higher alcohol consumption increases other hangover risk factors, including dehydration. 

6. Emotional Withdrawal

Some people drink to ease physical or emotional pain, which encourages the release of endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s feel-good hormone.

Heavy drinking will eventually lead to a comedown, and the endorphins in your body will decrease. These effects can result in emotional withdrawal after drinking. 

7. Dehydration

Drinking alcohol tends to make you 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.

8. Folic acid deficiency

Not consuming enough of the proper 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 drive your folic acid levels down, which may explain why you may feel anxious the next day.

9. Medication use

Specific medications may interact with alcohol, reducing the effectiveness of certain medicines and making you feel restless, irritated, or anxious.

These medications may include:

  • Anxiety medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Supplements
  • Vitamins
  • Over-the-counter medicines 

If you are taking any medications, check the label to ensure that it is safe to drink alcohol while taking them. You can also consult a medical professional regarding these medications.

10. Alcohol intolerance

Alcohol intolerance is otherwise known as alcohol allergy. It can cause many symptoms that mimic the physical symptoms of anxiety.

These include:

  • Nausea
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Head pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Excitability
  • Warmth
  • Flushed and red skin (especially on the face and neck)

11. 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 the best quality, leaving you slightly off.

If you live with anxiety, you are probably familiar with the following cycle with or without alcohol. Anxiety worsens when you do not get enough sleep. The feeling, in turn, makes it challenging to get a good night’s sleep.

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Why Doesn't Everyone Get Hangover Anxiety?

Some people can wake up after drinking feeling relaxed and ready for the day. However, you are more likely to have hangxiety if you are shy or have anxiety.

In a study of 97 people with varying levels of shyness, those who drank saw some reduction in anxiety symptoms.5 But they tended to experience higher anxiety levels the next day.

If you suffer from anxiety and depression, you are more likely to experience hangxiety after consuming alcohol. Alcohol normally suppresses anxious feelings while a person is drinking. However, the rebound effect makes anxiety worse than before. 

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Does Hangxiety Indicate a Drinking Problem?

Having frequent episodes of alcohol-induced anxiety can indicate a problem, primarily if it affects your day-to-day life. If you keep drinking despite having hangxiety, it can become a basis for diagnosing an alcohol use disorder.

Symptoms of Hangxiety

Hangover anxiety shouldn’t last longer than a day. Symptoms include:

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

People with hangover-related anxiety will likely also experience other "typical" hangover symptoms. These include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased fatigue
  • Feeling slow or less alert
  • Upset stomach
  • Body aches

If your anxiety lasts longer than a day, it may indicate a different issue, such as alcohol withdrawal or other anxiety disorders.

How to Deal with Hangover Anxiety

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

  • Stay hydrated: The more water you drink to rehydrate yourself, the faster your hangxiety will go away
  • Get some sleep: Getting some rest and good sleep can help you recover from a hangover
  • Take over-the-counter pain relief: Take ibuprofen to help ease any headaches or other physical discomfort
  • Clear your mind: Meditation calms the brain and has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety
  • Exercise: A light walk can help clear the mind and get the endorphins flowing
  • Go about your routine: Staying busy and finishing small tasks can help you feel a sense of accomplishment, which can help ease anxiety.

If these basic steps don't work, consider speaking with a mental health professional, such as a therapist.

How to Manage Symptoms of Hangover Anxiety 

Some people find that deep breathing helps fight feelings of anxiety while hungover. Deep, slow breathing allows you to relax and 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.

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How To Prevent Hangover Anxiety

To avoid hangover anxiety altogether, you should consider quitting alcohol. However, there are ways to prevent hangover anxiety, including:

  • Keep track of anxiety episodes after drinking: This may help you understand whether certain situations or quantities of alcohol cause you stress
  • Drink plenty of water: Hydrate 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; the more alcohol you drink in a short period, the worse the hangxiety will be
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach: Have a snack or quick meal before, during, or after drinking
  • Only drink with trusted friends: Avoid people and places that may encourage behavior that you regret the next day
  • Set yourself a limit: Set a limit and stop drinking when you've reached that limit to avoid drinking too much

Summary

Hangover anxiety is caused by dopamine levels going down after drinking. It’s characterized by regretting or worrying about what you might have done while drunk.

Various factors can contribute to hangover anxiety. Some factors include existing mental health problems and alcohol use disorder.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage and prevent hangxiety. However, you can quit alcohol to avoid it altogether.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024

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