Ever wake up after a night of drinking with your mind a messy jumble of nerves and anxiety? You may be frantically replaying the previous night’s events, trying to figure out if you said or did anything embarrassing or rude. Well, you’re not alone and there is a name for these post-drinking feelings of shame, worry, and guilt called “hangxiety.” Left unaddressed, hangover anxiety can turn into an unhealthy cycle and cause problems in your daily life.
What Causes Hangxiety?
When drinking alcohol, a hangover is brought on by drinking more than your body can handle within that time frame. Alcohol use impacts our brain by drastically increasing dopamine levels and other hormones, which gives a sense of happiness or euphoria, initially. However, once these spikes in brain chemicals wear off, it leads to the symptoms of a hangover (nausea, headaches, or fatigue), as well as potential depression or low mood.
When the anxiety piece of “hangxiety” comes into play it may be for two reasons. First, is the possibility of anxiety, shame, or embarrassment resulting from not remembering your actions while drinking. Second, if you already struggle with anxiety and you use beer or wine to ease your nervous energy, it is likely that your anxiety will come back at a higher level than before.
A study of 97 people revealed that hangxiety was a major hangover symptom in super-shy people or folks with social anxiety. Besides the two mentioned above, other causes of hangxiety can include:
- Dehydration: Many people feel dehydrated after partying all night. Studies show that not drinking enough water can exacerbate symptoms of worry and depression.
- Poor Sleep: Alcohol disrupts your sleep patterns and makes it harder to stay asleep for long periods of time. Not getting adequate rest can heighten feelings of stress in the morning.
- Mixing Substances: Alcohol can change how a medication works, and certain drugs can change how you feel the effects of alcohol. If you combine drinking with certain drugs, it can lead to bouts of hangxiety, slow breathing, and other harmful side effects.
How Do You Know If You Are Experiencing Hangxiety?
If you have consumed alcohol then you may be familiar with the physical side effects of hangovers such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and extreme fatigue. But hangxiety may be a little harder to identify. Some of the most common symptoms are shortness of breath, fast heart rate, headache, upset stomach, shaking, racing thoughts, irritability, sweating, and a lack of ability to focus. Of course, the symptoms you experience will vary from person to person.
How Can You Cure Hangxiety Symptoms?
Dealing with a regular hangover is painful enough. Add anxiety on top of that and you are in for a rough day. There is not much to do for the physical aspect of a hangover besides increasing fluid and electrolytes, eating mild food, and getting lots of rest. But there are things you can do to nurture your mind too.
“Load up on self-care to provide relaxation and self-compassion such as putting on a comfort show while resting or calling a supportive friend,” says Jessica Budinich, Outpatient Clinician at Mountainside. “To manage the worries that arise, try a grounding exercise to calm the nervous system. One method of doing this can be to use the 5 senses in the ‘5-4-3-2-1’, where you identify 5 things you can see around you, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing you can smell.”
If you find yourself overthinking about the actions you did when were under the influence, treat yourself with kindness and forgiveness like you would with a friend. Write your thoughts down or talk about it with someone you trust. Saying it aloud may make you realize that what you did isn’t a big deal and you can learn how to move forward.
Are There Ways to Prevent It?
One of the best ways to stop hangxiety from happening is to pass on the beer, wine, or cocktails altogether. However, if you are not looking to become sober or ready to quit drinking, then it may be time to reexamine your relationship with alcohol:
- Set a limit. While it may not work for everyone, tell yourself at the beginning of the night how many drinks you want to have. Tell a friend so they can hold you accountable too.
- Drink water. In between alcoholic beverages, drink water. The more water the better.
- Pace yourself. Limiting your drinks is important, but you also should be mindful of how quickly you consume them. Sip your drink slowly. You can spend all night sipping the same drink and still feel included with your family or friends.
- Try Non-alcoholic beverages. If you are worried about feeling left out with your friends, then try non-alcoholic drinks that come in a variety of beers, mocktails, and zero-proof spirits. Although these beverages don’t contain alcohol (or very little), you might be pleasantly surprised with the taste!
Persistent anxiety could be a sign of an anxiety disorder and regular hangover anxiety could hint at unhealthy drinking habits or alcohol use disorder. If alcohol and anxiety are interfering with your job, school, or relationships then it may be time to seek professional help. Don’t hesitate, please reach out today.