This article originally appeared on Sundayscaries.com and was written by Madeline Taylor.
When you go out drinking, there is no doubting that in the back of your mind is the thought of an uneasy stomach and pounding headache, especially if it’s a night heavy drinking. You spend hours filtering through any text messages and Facebook posts trying to piece together what happened the previous night. That’s when you start asking yourself questions about what happened. Did I embarrass myself? Did I say something to offend my boyfriend/girlfriend? Was I offensive to my friends or family?
While this scenario may be the case for some, if you go out drinking responsibly this entire scenario is simply your nerves and overthinking playing games with your mind. In fact, this feeling of anxiety and nervousness is much more common than you would think. This ‘hangover anxiety’ has become so relevant that Reddit has actually given it a real name, hangxiety.
What Is Hangxiety?
According to the Urban Dictionary, the term hangxiety is defined as: ‘The feeling of overwhelming guilt, stress, and worry you experience the day after a drinking binge.”
So where does this hangxiety come from? Well, studies have shown that there is actually physiological reasoning that you go through the morning after a night of drinking that is responsible for the anxiety that you feel. While it is true that hangxiety is not experienced by everyone who goes out drinking all night, it is more prevalent in those who already more prone to experiencing anxiety. Others who don’t necessarily have anxiety are more likely to just have a regular hangover with an upset stomach and achy, pounding headache.
If you think about it, it is the complete opposite of what just happened to you the previous night. You know, when you’re having an amazing time being with your friends and family and everyone is in a fun, festive mood.
How Does Hangxiety Work?
To explain how hangxiety works, you must first understand how alcohol affects your brain. You see, when you first start drinking alcohol, as soon as the buzz hits you, your brain gets hit with a rush of dopamine. This rush of dopamine doesn’t just happen when you get a little buzz from alcohol. It is actually the same thing as when you win at a casino, get to spend romantic time with your partner, get recognized for an honor or on social media. Dopamine is essentially what makes you feel good and happy, as well as gives you that natural ‘high’ feeling.
That’s why you feel so amazing after that initial alcohol buzz hits you and you want to keep feeling that way, so you simply drink more to try and keep that feeling of amazing going. However, this is where the problem comes in. That rush of dopamine that is helping you feel so amazing doesn’t last very long with the alcohol that you’re drinking. In fact, once those dopamine levels start to wear off, and you come down off of that initial buzz, it actually affects both your anxiety, as well as your mood for the worse.
Another thing this initial wave of dopamine does to your brain is to interrupt several other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters that are the main influencer of your mood. This means that your anxiety has been increased due to the lower amounts of dopamine in your brain, and your mood is much worse than normal due to the lack of serotonin as well. When you combine these two together that is the reason why your mood and anxiety levels can range so much after having a few drinks, or even the next day. If you have ever gone out drinking with anybody, you may have noticed how they go through different feelings such as feeling depressed, being panicked, being impulsive or agitated, or even easily irritable.
Who Can Get Hangxiety?
While anybody who does any type of heavy drinking (‘heavy drinking’ being in relation to how much they normally drink) is susceptible to experience hangxiety, it is more predominant in those who are more prone to anxiety. This means that if you already have issues dealing with anxiety, the chances of having hangxiety after a night of drinking are much more likely. In fact, hangxiety is even more relevant in those who more often than not, use alcohol to help get themselves more social and to help calm their nerves.
When you do drink alcohol to help calm the nerves, whatever feeling you have quieted with your drinking will soon come back in full force, however. This type of rebound is also going to impact your sleep cycle. Your sleep cycle is one of the key components in managing your anxiety, and even a slight deprivation in your sleep can greatly increase your anxiety symptoms, as well as depression. But you’re thinking that alcohol helps to make you drowsy? Well, it also affects the quality of your sleep.
Is There a Cure for Hangxiety?
Even if you don’t binge drink alcohol or have any type of alcohol addiction, after a night of heavy drinking you are going to be prone to experiencing hangxiety. While there is no cure for hangxiety, there are some tips and tricks you can use to help lessen the feelings of it.
For starters, if you wake up and are feeling paranoid or anxious, take a second to take some deep breathes before scouring through your phone to piece your previous night back together. Do some deep breathing, meditation, and even some exercise if you are able to. This will help you to relax, as well as reduce the symptoms of your hangxiety. If the symptoms and feelings of anxiety last for longer amounts of time, you can always try to lessen your drinking to help prevent this feeling of hangxiety from occurring so often. And if that doesn’t work, it is probably best to see your doctor. Just remember, no matter how you feel in the morning after a night out drinking, always do your best to drink responsibly.