Megan Mulroy, LPC

Having a hangover is not an uncommon occurrence. Pounding headache, nausea, and fatigue are common symptoms. However, after a night of drinking many people suffer from a phenomenon known as “Hangxiety.” If you are unfamiliar, hangxiety is the intersection between a hangover and anxiety. Many people confuse hangxiety and regret. If you find yourself scrolling through your phone in fear to see what you texted or are worried about what you might have said, it’s possible you regret drinking too much or struggle with alcohol misuse.  For others, the feelings of worry, dread, and anxiety are unfounded and are indicators that you are experiencing hangxiety. 

Staff writers at Self spoke with and interviewed researchers to identify and understand the psychological factors behind hangover anxiety. Michael Bogenschutz, M.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, stated that the anxiety after a big night of drinking often mirrors (on a smaller scale) withdrawal symptoms including panic attacks, irritability, and unshakable anxiety. According to Dr. Iver, Alcohol also disturbs the functioning of brain processes, including serotonin and endorphins. “The feelings that you have after you drink alcohol, or even the day after, can result in a whole range of feelings and moods and anxiety symptoms,” she says. “It can range from panic to feeling depressed to feeling impulsive to feeling agitated and irritable.” It’s important to note that there are also some key psychological factors that may make you more prone to hangover anxiety. Researchers found that hangover anxiety is worse when a person already struggles with anxiety or may have an anxiety disorder. For many people, alcohol can serve as a maladaptive coping tool to quieten anxious feelings, leading to an anxious hangover the next day. 

If hangxiety is something that sounds familiar for you, here are some tips for combatting hangxiety the morning after:

Talk to a Professional: Talking with a licensed professional to uncover the root of your anxiety and process anxious feelings may be the first step in combatting anxious hangovers. To make an appointment with Symmetry Counseling here!

Take Care of You: Treat your hangxiety like any other physical hangover and give your body a chance to rest. Drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate, take an ibuprofen to ease your headache, and eat food that is nutrient dense. 

Move Your Body: Mindful movement like a walk around the block, yoga, or stretching can help ease anxiety. Exercise never hurts when combatting anxiety and moving your body may give your anxious mind a break.

Focus on Your Breathing: To quiet anxious thoughts, put one hand on your stomach and one on your heart and focus on the pattern of your breathing. My favorite breathing exercise is inhaling for 4 seconds, holding it for 7, and releasing the breath for 8 seconds. Set a timer and engage in this counting/breathing exercise until you feel calmer. 

Try Not to Fixate: Try to remember that thoughts are not necessarily facts and try not to fixate on what happened the night before that may be causing anxiety. Instead, think about how you want to move forward and things you want to engage in that may not be accompanied by a hangover. 

Even though these tips might be helpful for the occasional bout of hangxiety, it’s important to keep tabs on how you feel after drinking, and when hangover anxiety is a sign of something more serious, especially when hangxiety occurs frequently. For example, a recent study found that the respite from shyness and anxiety followed by intense anxiety after drinking could indicate that very shy people are more prone to developing alcohol use disorder. This may be because they may be more likely to self-medicate with alcohol. Additionally, one of the criteria for alcohol use disorder is continuing to drink even if it continuously brings anxiety or depressed mood. Bear these warning signs in mind when consuming alcohol, and do not hesitate to reach out to one of our Chicago therapists. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 should you need help with alcohol and/or drug use. 

Source: 

Stiehl, Christina. “Why You Get ‘Hangxiety’ After a Night of Drinking.” SELF, 26 Dec. 2019, www.self.com/story/hangover-anxiety.