Waking up after a heavy night out can be super messy. Aside from the physical feelings of illness, there’s a form of sadness, regret, and stress that comes with it. It’s no wonder alcohol is a depressant. That means any amount you drink can make you more likely to get the blues. Alcohol undoubtedly affects your mental health.
Some people experience anxiety after drinking. This hangover-related anxiety, or “hangxiety,” can last for several hours after a person’s blood alcohol levels return to normal.
How does hangxiety happen? Drinking alcohol dumps a flood of dopamine into the pleasure centre of the brain. The feel-good chemical swirls through your head, but the rush only lasts for a short while. When dopamine levels dip back down, feelings of anxiety rebound.
Let’s take a look at some of the causes, signs, and cures for hangxiety.
Causes of hangxiety
If it isn’t too obvious, hangxiety is caused by alcohol. You can’t feel ‘hang-xious’ if you don’t drink. You can feel other forms of anxiety, but not hangxiety. It goes deeper than just alcohol because there are people who drink and never experience hangxiety. Here are some of the other causes of hangxiety.
1. Alcohol-related actions
When you drink alcohol you most probably let loose, and sometimes too loose. You may end up doing things that don’t align with your brand, and the next day you are consumed with regret and hate for yourself. Hangxiety can be a consequence of alcohol-related actions and not the alcohol itself.
Decreased cognitive function, which includes a reduced ability to make good decisions, is common when drunk. It may lead to actions that produce anxiety when a person reflects on them later.
You wake up the morning after drinking and you remember all the things you did that you would never do sober because you’re a typically shy person. This makes you cringe and stressed. A 2019 study highlights a potential link between shyness, alcohol consumption, alcohol-use disorder, and anxiety. The study found that drinking led to a slight decrease in anxiety among shy individuals. However, the next day, they reported more intense anxiety.
3. Anxiety disorder
People who have an anxiety disorder are more likely to experience hangxiety. An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition where you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating. How does it tie in with hangxiety?
Drinking can help cope or lessen forms of anxiety like social anxiety. Once the effects of alcohol wear off, you are left with physical hangover symptoms that can worsen anxiety or depression.
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4. Alcohol use disorder
Alcohol-use disorder is a chronic disease characterised by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. It can cause hangxiety. Why? People with alcohol use disorder may experience withdrawal when they do not use alcohol. Anxiety may be a symptom of withdrawal.
Symptoms of hangxiety
More often than not, the symptoms of hangxiety exhibit themselves in a similar way to those of regular anxiety. This may include:
- A constant state of restlessness
- Inability to focus on normal tasks
- Feeling overwhelming shame, worry, or embarrassment from the previous night
Let’s say you find yourself in a state of hangxiety. What do you do? Hangxiety can be so terrible, so sometimes all you need is a quick fix. Here are some of the things that you can do to manage hangxiety:
- Rehydrate. Drink more water.
- Rest. Take your mind off things. Relax if you can and sleep.
- You can also try out some over-the-counter painkillers to cure your hangover which will, in turn, cure your hangxiety.
Ways to reduce hangxiety
The first and most obvious way to reduce hangxiety is to stop drinking alcohol. However, since not all of us are willing to do so, you can have your cake and eat it. There are things that you can do to reduce hangxiety the next morning. These include:
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
- Have some snacks or a light meal before you start drinking.
- Match alcohol with water. Drink adequate water throughout the night.
- Eat enough food before you drink. When there is food in your stomach before drinking, alcohol is absorbed more slowly, lowering the chances of hangxiety.
- Know your limits when it comes to alcoholic drinks. When you reach your limit switch to water or another beverage.
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