Hangxiety: The Anxiety That Comes After Alcohol

Do you ever have a big night out and wake up the next morning with feelings of absolute dread? The overwhelming sense of anxiety that sits in your chest while your body is trying to get rid of the alcohol is referred to as "hangxiety" and its more common than you think.

Alcohol and pre-existing anxiety

If you are someone that already experiences anxiety and panic attacks it is not unlikely that alcohol can trigger those feelings- but it does happen to people who aren't usually anxious as well. According to Sally Winston Ph.D. who is a clinical psychologist and a member of the Anxiety & Depression Association of America hangovers make you more sensitive to everything that has happened and everything that is going on around you.

Alcohol, the body and anxiety

When you consume alcohol it binds to the GABA receptors in the brain, these are responsible for sending messages from the brain to the nervous system. When you drink alcohol, your feelings of anxiety are dampened temporarily. This is why people see alcohol as an effective form of social lubrication because when you drink alcohol you seem to relax a little, any pre-existing anxiousness can be dampened. Until it has a rebound effect and it comes back worse than it was to start with.

Alcohol induces the rush of dopamine in your body, the neurotransmitter that carries messages from the brain throughout the body. This dopamine high is the reason you feel "buzzed" after a few drinks. But when the high comes crashing down it can have a real effect on your body- your mood, and your anxiety levels especially.

How long does this anxiety last?

These feelings of anxiety brought on by alcohol consumption can last anywhere from a few hours the morning after, to a few weeks later- it depends entirely on you and your ability to control your anxiety, which is obviously harder if it isn't something you experience regularly. Your body takes around 72 - 240 hours to remove all the alcohol from your body, but the feelings of anxiety can have a longer lasting effect. 

How does alcohol affect my anxiety?

For me, I've taken steps to cut back on alcohol because of the effect that it does have on my anxiety. I was using alcohol as a way to calm my feelings and in turn, I thought it was making me more fun, it was making me more carefree and people enjoyed being around me more after a few drinks. But it wasn't just the day after that the overwhelming tightness in my chest would stick around, I would find myself more anxious than usual for days after having a big night. It was severely impacting on my life, my moods, my relationships, my productivity and I had to make that executive decision to cut it back.

Why does it still affect me if I don't already have anxiety?

If you are someone who doesn't deal with anxiety on a normal basis, but when you are hungover experience anxiousness- it could be a sign of an underlying issue. You can wake up with dread over your actions from the night before, which is made a lot harder to deal with if you black out and can't remember what you actually did. There might also be feelings of shame or embarrassment involved. If you are experiencing hangxiety almost every time you drink- it could be time to seek some professional help. 

Hangxiety & sleep

Another reason you could be feeling anxious is the effect that alcohol has over your sleep. While it makes you feel drowsy and like you are ready for bed, the consumption of alcohol has a huge impact on your quality of sleep, your time spent in REM sleep. While you might have slept for a good ten hours, you have had poor quality sleep. In turn, sleep is a major factor in anxiety. Poor sleep can heighten your anxiety, an getting a good nights rest is essential to control your anxiety.

Do you experience hangxiety? Could it be time for alcohol cut back? In all, you need to look at your options for you and your mental health personally, no one else can make these decisions for you.