If you experience anxiety the day after drinking, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s so common that there’s even a word for it: hangxiety. Basically, the term refers to increased feelings of anxiety during the hangover period after drinking. And it goes way beyond just regretting that drunk text you sent or agonizing over the weird dance move you debuted after having one too many. Those who suffer from hangxiety often experience an increased heart rate, racing thoughts, and an overall feeling of dread or uneasiness.
So why, exactly, does this happen to some people? It’s complicated. George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism told SELF, “I think of a hangover as, more or less, a mini-withdrawal from alcohol and anxiety is one of the components.” More specifically, “because it’s a central nervous system depressant, as it’s working its way out of the body it can lead to opposite, reactive symptoms like increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, restlessness, a lot of symptoms that we associate with anxiety,” adds Melissa Davis, LCSW, Community Behavioral Health’s program manager of outpatient health in Hancock County.
And unfortunately, if you’re already prone to anxiety, you’re more likely to experience hangxiety than others. “If somebody has PTSD, a generalized anxiety disorder, or anxiety symptoms related to other mental health issues, the alcohol withdrawal will be felt more significantly because those anxiety responses are already heightened in that individual,” Davis says. For this reason, when anxious people drink to quiet their worried minds, their anxiety symptoms are likely to reemerge (sometimes feeling even worse than before) as the alcohol wears off.
Good news though: there are actually a few things you can do to prevent hangxiety, or at least lessen its impact. First, avoid binge drinking. Davis explains that hangxiety is basically one of your body’s ways of telling you you’ve had too much. “With the hangover and then the resulting anxiety the next day, it’s in response to having had more of a toxin than our body is able to handle. It is a direct relation to how much you drink,” she says.
If you already feel a hangover coming on, don’t panic. There are plenty of coping strategies for dealing with anxiety that’ll work for hangxiety too. Trying some breathing techniques, yoga, or even taking a quick trip to the gym will likely leave you feeling better. And if not, remind yourself that while it may feel like it, these symptoms won’t last.
Written By: Kara Cuzzone