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Updated on April 14, 2022

Hangover Anxiety (Hangxiety)

What is Hangover Anxiety (Hangxiety)?

Most people have experienced the typical physical hangover symptoms: pounding headaches, nausea, cravings for greasy food.

But hangover symptoms aren't just physical. There can be psychological symptoms as well, such as anxiety. This happens so often it's even been given a name: hangxiety.

When a person drinks alcohol, dopamine floods the brain. Dopamine is a feel-good chemical and it gives the person a "rush."

However, it doesn't last very long. When dopamine levels start to go down, feelings of anxiety set in.

Additionally, heavy drinking causes an influx of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which makes a person feel calm and relaxed.

This becomes a "crutch" for chronic drinkers. When alcohol is taken out of the picture, GABA is no longer present. Thus, the feeling of calmness is also taken away, leading to anxiety.

Aside from these, there are other factors that may lead to hangover anxiety.

What Causes Hangover Anxiety?

Research shows that anxiety is a common hangover symptom. Someone may experience anxiety for the same reasons they suffer from other hangover symptoms.

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

People may experience anxiety due to excessive thinking about their actions the night before.

They may spend a lot of time the next day wondering and worrying about what they may have done or said while they were drunk.

Alcohol decreases cognitive function, causing people to do things they may not otherwise do. Thinking about out-of-character or embarrassing behavior that may have happened can cause anxiety.

Anxiety disorder

Someone who suffers from 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 that their symptoms are worse during a hangover.

A lot of hangover symptoms, including dehydration, exhaustion, and upset stomach, can make anxiety feel worse, both physically and emotionally.

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. But, the next morning, they felt more anxious.

The same study also found a link between alcohol abuse and anxiety elevation among shy people.

Alcohol use disorder

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may experience withdrawal symptoms abstaining 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 AUD.

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 go down, 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 as 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.

These include:

  • Nausea
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Head pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Excitability
  • Warmth
  • Flushed and red skin (especially on the 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, anxiety worsens when you do not get enough sleep, but also makes 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. These include:

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

They may also experience: 

  • A "knot in the stomach" feeling
  • A racing heart
  • 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, those who drank saw some reduction in anxiety symptoms.

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.

People who suffer from anxiety and depression are more likely to experience hangxiety after consuming alcohol. Alcohol normally suppresses anxious feelings while a person is drinking.

However, the rebound effect makes the anxiety worse than before. 

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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 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.
  • Get some sleep — 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 — 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 — This doesn't have to be anything strenuous. A light walk can help clear the mind and get the endorphins flowing.
  • Go about your routine — Cleaning your room or running errands can take your mind off things. Doing them can also lead to 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 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.

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How To Prevent Hangover Anxiety

There are ways to prevent hangover anxiety, including:

  • Keep a log of anxiety episodes that follow 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. If you tend to drink quickly, try enjoying a simple drink on the rocks that is better suited for sipping. The more alcohol you drink in a short span of time, the worse the hangxiety will be.
  • 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. 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. Set a limit and stop drinking when you're reached that limit.

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 hangover 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.

When can hangxiety indicate a problem?

Having frequent episodes of alcohol-induced anxiety (hangxiety) can indicate a problem, especially if it affects a person's functioning.

When a person continues to drink despite this, it can become a basis for the diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Here are some of the best treatments for AUD:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment is the most intensive and effective option for alcohol addiction treatment. These programs usually last 30, 60, or 90 days. They may be longer in some cases.

Throughout an inpatient program, you'll live on-site in a safe, substance-free environment. You'll go through medically supervised detox first, then behavioral therapy. Other services may be added to your regimen.

Many of these treatment programs assist you with an aftercare program afterward.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

PHPs are the second most intensive alcohol addiction programs. They're sometimes called intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). PHPs provide comparable services to inpatient programs.

These services may include:

  • Detox
  • Medical services
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Support groups
  • Other holistic or custom treatments

The main difference between PHPs and inpatient programs is that you return home and sleep at your house during a partial hospitalization program.

Some PHPs provide food and transportation. This varies by program.

PHPs are ideal for new patients and those who have completed an inpatient program and still require intensive treatment.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient programs are less intensive than inpatient programs and PHPs. They're best for people who are highly motivated to achieve sobriety. Patients usually have responsibilities at work, home, or school.

These programs customize your treatment sessions around your schedule.

Outpatient programs may be part of aftercare once a patient completes an inpatient program or PHP.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

Certain people qualify for medication-assisted therapy. Some medications can assist you throughout detox and withdrawal. Others can reduce cravings and normalize your bodily functions.

The most common medications used to treat AUD are:

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Naltrexone (Revia and Vivitrol)

MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery if combined with other therapies.

Support Groups

Support groups are peer-led organizations made of people dedicated to helping each other stay sober. They can be the first step towards sobriety or part of an aftercare plan.

Many of these programs follow the 12-step approach.

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Resources

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  1. "Anxiety after drinking and what you can do about it." Beyond Blue.
  2. Marsh, Beth et al. “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, 
  3. 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,
  4. Book, Sarah W., and Carrie L. Randall. “Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Use.” Alcohol Research & Health vol. 26,2 : 130–135.
  5. 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,
  6. 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 : 93-105. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.04.009,

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