• Medical

How to Get Rid of Hangxiety

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2.16.21

BY: DR. KYON HOOD, MD

A hangover’s physical symptoms are all too familiar to many people: a pounding headache, unbearable nausea, light sensitivity, dizziness. Hangovers and post-drinking recovery aren’t always just physical symptoms though.

A hangover’s physical symptoms are all too familiar to many people: a pounding headache, unbearable nausea, light sensitivity, dizziness. Hangovers and post-drinking recovery aren’t always just physical symptoms though.

The extreme anxiety that drinking can induce can start to take your mind into uncontrollable fear. This phenomenon has come to have its own name: hangxiety.

Hangxiety is a new age term for the anxiety that is commonly felt after excessive drinking, but it isn’t necessarily a new concept.

What is “hangxiety?”

A hangover is a state of recovery for the body and brain. The body works to remedy the physical hangover symptoms and the brain works to remedy the post-drinking chemical imbalances that often cause a spike in anxiety.

Hangover-related anxiety can be separate from the physical symptoms; during this time of “hangxiety,” there is generally more panic experienced, even if a person may not have an anxiety disorder to begin with.

Some symptoms of hangxiety:

  • A constant state of restlessness: If you're hungover after a night of heavy drinking, you're likely to feel pretty restless the next day. That restlessness can be chalked up to dramatic changes in terms of your brain chemicals and the altered functioning of your central nervous system that occur after a hangover. As far as physical symptoms of a hangover, restlessness is one you may notice first.
  • Feelings of worry and anxiousness: Alcohol can impact your brain's production of dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and serotonin, all of which regulate your ability to deal with feelings of anxiety. After a night of drinking, you might find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety, or even susceptible to a panic attack. Sometimes, heightened anxiety after a hangover is a sign that you're experiencing alcohol withdrawal, which may indicate alcohol dependency.
  • Inability to focus on normal tasks: The physical symptoms of a hangover, as well as alcohol's lingering effects on your brain, can make it tough to concentrate while hungover. A hangover can definitely affect your ability to concentrate, especially if you're going through withdrawals or experiencing physical symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and a queasy stomach.
  • Paranoia: Alcohol withdrawal can make you feel paranoid and on edge. When you're hungover, your body and brain often struggle to bounce back after being impacted by the sedative effects of alcohol. As a result, you might feel a need to be more "switched on" than you normally would, especially if you have to resume work and other daily responsibilities while hung over.
  • Feeling overwhelming shame, worry or embarrassment from the previous night: Drinking heavily can make you feel guilty when the party’s over, especially if you’re afraid that your alcohol consumption might affect your ability to work and fulfill your other responsibilities. Hangovers can affect your judgment and perception of yourself, which can in turn make you more likely to feel negative feelings and think negative thoughts. While post-partying shame can be attributed to numerous factors, heavy alcohol consumption and a hangover is often the cause.

What causes hangover anxiety?

When you’re drinking, alcohol disrupts your brain functionality, releasing an excess of “feel-good” chemicals like endorphins. The release of all those chemicals in your brain is part of why partying can be such a euphoric experience. However, the party has to end at some point, and you’re liable to experience a crash the morning after – also known as a hangover.

After a night of heavy drinking and partying, you may find yourself drained from those mood-boosting chemicals and plunged into a rapid mood decline. That’s why you might feel anxious, ashamed, paranoid, and distracted while hungover – your body is struggling to adjust to the absence of alcohol, and you’re probably experiencing some heavy withdrawals.

Your body is always trying to maintain a state of homeostasis – that perfect balance that keeps all of your internal systems functioning properly. Alcohol can disrupt your body’s homeostasis, and your central nervous system will start scrambling to get things back to normal. This triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, making you feel more anxious than usual.

Although hormonal fluctuation plays a major role in anxiety, there are actually a combination of things that may increase hangxiety:

  • Social anxiety: For some people, drinking can help lessen feelings of anxiety before social events. Once the effects of alcohol wear off, however, you are left with physical hangover symptoms that can worsen anxiety or depression.
  • Alcohol detox: Feeling restless, anxious, nervous, jittery.
  • Dehydration/nutrient depletion: This can be a source of anxiety and mood changes due to lack of hydration in the body paired with missing vital nutrients that help keep the body functioning, like electrolytes.
  • Exhaustion: Sleep deprivation may make anxiety feel more emotionally intense.

Why does it feel like no one else feels this way after drinking?

Mood fluctuations are a common symptom during a hangover, but hangxiety isn’t universal. Hangxiety is individualistic from person to person, but a new research study suggests that highly shy people may have a higher risk of experiencing anxiety with a hangover.

In 2019, researchers looked at 97 participants across different degrees of “shyness” who drank socially. 50 of those participants were asked to drink as normal, and the other 47 participants were asked to stay sober. Researchers measured levels of anxiety before, during activity, and after drinking/sober periods. The participants who drank alcohol saw a decrease in anxiety while drinking, but those who were highly shy tended to have higher levels of anxiety the next day.

Drinking can provide what seems like temporary relief from anxiety, which can be liberating for a lot of people. These same individuals, however, often experience worse anxiety the next day. In return, this can lead to a cycle of substance abuse or alcohol use disorder (AUD) if someone decides to cope with their anxiety through regular excessive alcohol use.

How can I manage hangover anxiety?

If you are familiar with anxiety, you probably have some coping mechanisms to ease your mind. Sometimes those coping methods aren’t always the best way to manage hangxiety — it might not feel so good to exercise while you have a pounding headache.

1. Manage physical symptoms.

When you feel physically well, you can focus on working through mental obstacles.

  • Rehydrate: Drink lots of water and electrolyte drinks like sports beverages or coconut water. Keep in mind that chugging a large amount of water is not going to cure your hangover in a few minutes. Only IV therapy can provide instant rehydration to the bloodstream.
  • Food: Eat a light meal that is easy to digest. Avoid greasy, fried, and processed foods.
  • Rest: Sleep when you can — aromatherapy can help relax you and get you to those zzzs.
  • Over-the-counter pain relief: Ibuprofen is one pain medication for hangover relief. Take a recommended dose, follow the instructions on the packaging, and avoid taking it on an empty stomach. We offer Toradol in our Hangover Relief IV therapy.

2. Focus on your mental health.

  • Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness meditation or do breathing exercises.
  • Slowly unpack the night: Don’t overthink your actions and don’t dwell too hard on a less-than-desirable decision you may have made.
  • Talk yourself through your fears: Contact trusted people in your support circle that can help talk you through your worries or even take you out to lunch.
  • Try stress relieving activities: Walking, drawing, taking a bath, listening to music, playing with a pet, etc.

What are some ways to reduce hangover anxiety?

It is easy to convince yourself that you will “never drink again,” but realistically it may be beneficial to learn how to reduce symptoms of hangover anxiety instead. It is possible to manage hangxiety if you take conscious steps to prevent it:

  • Eat before drinking, and never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Always drink water throughout the night to stay hydrated as best you can.
  • Remember the 1 to 1 ratio: 1 serving of water per alcoholic drink.
  • Set a limit, and let your friends know that limit so there can be accountability.
  • Take advantage of effective hangover relief options like our IV wellness therapy so you spend less time feeling physically ill.

In short…

Hangovers are a part of everyone’s drinking experience. While most hangover symptoms appear to be just physical, there may be more at hand when it comes to hangxiety. Not everyone will experience anxiety after excessive drinking, but it is important to notice, acknowledge, and manage if you do.

Set some boundaries for yourself, and prioritize food, water, and rest the next time you drink. Learning to drink in moderation can help reduce hangovers and hangxiety over time.

Although hangover-related anxiety is common for many people, it may be a sign of something more serious in some individuals. If anxiety persists or alcohol use begins to worsen, consider talking to a therapist or healthcare provider.

If you or someone you care about needs help, this resource can help.


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