Experiencing hangover anxiety is known as “hangxiety”. Being mindful about alcohol consumption and its effects can help you cope with — or prevent — this unpleasant feeling.
Hangovers aren’t known to be positive experiences. Pounding headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue are fairly classic symptoms in the aftermath of drinking alcohol.
For some people, hangovers also mean anxiety. According to survey results, this “hangxiety” is a hangover symptom for approximately
Hangxiety isn’t a formal diagnosis. It’s a popular term that describes a widely shared experience of post-alcohol anxiety.
Dr. David Feifel, medical director at Kadima Neuropsychiatry Institute and professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, explains much of hangxiety is caused by the effects of alcohol on the brain.
“Alcohol acts like an anti-anxiety drug,” he says. “It’s actually stimulating the same brain receptors, called GABA receptors, that are activated by anti-anxiety medications like xanax and valium.”
This is why when you drink alcohol it’s common to feel less anxious and more relaxed. If you consume high amounts of alcohol, the anxiety circuits in your brain become strongly suppressed.
As alcohol starts to rapidly disappear from your system Feifel explains a pendulum effect occurs. Your anxiety circuits go into overdrive as they try to find a balance after being suppressed.
For many people, this means an uptick in feelings of anxiety and the familiar hangxiety experience.
Brain circuitry during drinking is just one piece of the puzzle. Other factors found in classic hangovers may also make you more likely to experience anxiety. Dehydration, for example, has
Sometimes, your own worries may get the better of you after a night of drinking. If you wake up with unclear memories, you may naturally worry about what happened the night before.
Why doesn’t everyone experience hangxiety?
Hangxiety is common, but it doesn’t happen to everyone, and experts aren’t clear as to why.
Research suggests some people may be more susceptible to hangxiety. According to a
Feifel indicates you may be more likely to experience hangxiety if you live with an anxiety disorder or naturally have a high base level of anxiousness.
He adds that amount of alcohol also factors in. “The more alcohol consumed, the higher chance of experiencing [hangxiety],” he says.
As a shared experience and not a formal diagnosis, there’s no set list of symptoms that define hangxiety. In general, it’s the similar to general symptoms of anxiety, just specific to post-drinking.
General anxiety symptoms include:
- feeling restless or on-edge
- persistent, uncontrollable feelings of worry
- difficulty sleeping
- thought rumination
- upset stomach
- chest pain
- unexplained body aches
- racing heartbeat
If these symptoms are a part of hangxiety, Feifel indicates they will typically appear 6 hours to 20 hours after you stop drinking.
You don’t have to let hangover anxiety make the day after drinking miserable. Like other forms of anxiety, hangxiety is manageable.
Treating the physical hangover
If the factors involved in a classic hangover can also contribute to anxiety, treating your physical hangover may help you mentally.
“Addressing the physical symptoms of your hangover can also make you feel better psychologically,” says Dr. Paul Linde, psychiatrist and medical director of psychiatry and collaborative care at Ria Health, San Francisco.
- eating a light, healthy meal
- taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory
Skipping certain substances
Plenty of people reach for a coffee the morning after drinking to try and shake the feeling of grogginess.
But reaching for caffeine may not be the best idea as its stimulant effects could exasperate your feelings of anxiety.
Nicotine, recreational drugs, and more alcohol should also be avoided.
If you’re being hard on yourself about what you did under the influence of alcohol, self-compassion can help.
Self-compassion is learning to treat yourself with kindness and forgiveness. It’s the process of treating yourself the same way you would a close friend.
“Finally, try to be gentle with yourself; remember that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to forgive yourself and make amends where necessary,” suggests Becca Smith, a licensed professional counselor and chief clinical officer at BasePoint Academy, Forney, Texas.
“When you find yourself in a similar situation again, take the time to remember how you felt during post-drinking anxiety and try to make better decisions next time.”
When anxiety is overwhelming, relaxation techniques can help pull you out of thought rumination.
Popular relaxation techniques include:
- deep breathing
- mind-body exercises, like yoga or tai chi
- progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)
- guided imagery
How to prevent hangover anxiety
Even better than getting rid of hangxiety is preventing it in the first place. According to the experts, you can stave off hangover anxiety by:
- knowing your alcohol limits — and sticking to them
- drink plenty of water alongside alcohol
- eat a balanced meal before drinking
- go into drinking situations well rested
- if you’re already feeling anxious, don’t drink alcohol
- make drinks last longer/ slow down your rate of drinking
If hangover anxiety is getting in the way of your day-to-day function or doesn’t go away along with other hangover symptoms, a mental health professional can help.
Persistent anxiety could be the sign of an anxiety disorder, or regular hangover anxiety could hint at excessive drinking habits or alcohol use disorder.
If you aren’t sure where to start, you can speak with your primary care doctor about your symptoms. They can rule out other medical conditions, write you a prescription if needed, and can recommend a mental health professional to address anxiety symptoms.
Hangxiety is a term that describes hangover anxiety, an experience of anxiousness that occurs after you’ve been drinking alcohol.
Not everyone develops hangxiety, but it’s fairly common. Alcohol’s effects on your brain, classic hangover factors like dehydration, and worry about the night’s events can all increase anxiety after drinking.
While some people may be more likely to experience hangxiety than others, focusing on your physical health, practicing self-compassion, and having a go-to relaxation method can all help when hangxiety hits.