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Beep! Beep! Beep! Is that the blare of your alarm ringing in your ears, or just the pounding in your poor, dehydrated head?
Oof. No one likes a hangover. Nausea and vampire-like aversion to light are bad enough. But for some folks, a booze sesh also unleashes a jumble of next-day nerves and anxiety.
Keep reading for the deets on what causes hangover-induced anxiety — aka hangxiety — and how to deal with it.
What is hangxiety?
Hangover-related anxiety — or, hangxiety — is a significant increase in anxiety experienced the day after heavy drinking.
Not everyone experiences this psychological symptom of a hangover. Research suggests that folks with a social phobia or shyness are more likely to experience hangxiety. It might also be linked to dehydration, sleep deprivation, medication interactions, or alcohol intolerance.
TBH, experts still haven’t pinpointed a single, concrete cause for hangover-induced anxiety. But several factors could contribute.
1. It could be related to social anxiety
A 2019 study of 97 people found that hangxiety was a major hangover symptom in super-shy people or folks with social anxiety. This *might* be because their anxiety felt more intense when it returned after being temporarily batted away by booze.
Alcohol as a social lubricant is nothing new. If you have social anxiety, you might down a drink to relax before a social event or keep sipping at a cocktail to keep yourself chill during conversations.
The trouble with using booze to ward off social anxiety? The anxiety comes roaring back in full force — and it might be compounded by worries about what you might’ve said or done when the drinks were flowing.
Add classic hangover symptoms like a headache and nausea and you’ve got yourself a rich case of morning-after hangxiety.
2. It might be dehydration
Even if you’re on your best behavior — chugging H2O between beers or noshing on healthy snacks between sips — a night out can leave you a little high and dry. And research from 2011, 2014, and 2018 all found that dehydration can exacerbate anxiety and depression.
Dehydration = a classic hangover symptom because booze literally tells your body to pee more. It’s practically a recipe for hangxiety.
3. You could be sleep-deprived
Research from 2005 (throwback to “Wedding Crashers”!) links insufficient sleep with anxiety.
This makes a lot of sense, right? Late-night partying doesn’t play nice with your sleep schedule. A night of restless, barely-there sleep can unleash major irritability and anxiety in the morning.
4. Your body might be detoxing a bit
Did you know that alcohol is technically a toxin? Once it hits your liver — the organ responsible for cleaning house — your body starts breaking it down and expelling it through your breath, sweat, pee, etc.
Of course, drinking too much or too quickly can overwhelm your systems. So if you overdid it on the drinks last night — or tend to overindulge in alcohol regularly — your hangover might be tinged with some of the psychological signs of alcohol withdrawal:
- anxiety (erm, hangxiety)
5. Your meds might be messed up
Some prescription meds are not supposed to be mixed with alcohol. Maybe the blend can trigger dangerous side effects or maybe the booze just dilutes the pills’ potency.
Even vitamins and supplements can interact with alcohol. So always check your medication and supplement labels before drinking alcohol with them. This could help you avoid hangxiety, but it could also prevent bigger issues like ulcers or organ damage.
6. Maybe you have real regrets
It’s no secret that alcohol lowers inhibitions. Social lube might be nice once in a while, but feeling all loosey-goosey can also make us do and say things we regret later.
Maybe you texted your ex. Maybe you let loose on your BFF and said something you wish you could take back. Heck, maybe you finally kissed your crush and just wish you’d been a little less sloppy! Even the teensiest embarrassment can trigger anxiety.
If you think your hangxiety is just a case of regret, take a deep breath. Send an apology if it’s warranted, but otherwise cut yourself some slack. Now that you know better, you can do better next time.
7. It could be alcohol intolerance
Yep, some peeps are allergic to alcohol. And some of the physical signs of an allergic reaction look and feel like hangxiety:
- racing heart
- upset stomach
- general jitteriness and anxiety
Alcohol intolerance can vary in intensity. If you’re experiencing signs of a serious allergic reaction — hives, throat constriction, or trouble breathing — get medical help ASAP.
Dealing with a hangover can be painful enough. Add a heap of anxiety and you’re in for a rough day.
Fortunately, there are ways to dial down hangover-induced anxiety. Most methods require taking care of your body to help quiet your mind.
1. Sleep it off
If your schedule allows, hit the snooze button and take the morning off.
You already know that poor sleep can trigger anxiety. Well, research suggests that booze disrupts the quality and quantity of sleep, so catching a few more winks can only help.
If your anxiety is too high to drift off, at least lay down for a while. Dim the lights, turn on some white noise, and diffuse some lavender oil in your bedroom.
Give yourself extra TLC with electrolyte-infused hydration. Reach for Gatorade, Pedialyte, or even food sources of electrolytes.
3. Nourish your body and mind
Anxiety can make your stomach feel like a nervous wreck. Dial down the jitters and turn up the calm with these nourishing noms:
- tart cherries
- dark chocolate
- plain toast
Or try a few tummy-taming drinks:
4. Try breathing exercises
Deep breathing can help release muscle tension and slow your anxious, pounding heart.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a great place to start. Here’s how:
- Exhale completely with a big sighing sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 full seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale from your mouth for 8 seconds with another big sigh or whooshing sound.
5. Go ohmmmmmm
Meditation isn’t some woo-woo wellness magic — science says it works!
You can practice meditating solo, with an app, or even during a slow yoga session. Find what’s comfortable for you then, practice gently letting go of your thoughts until the negative clouds and anxieties have floated up and away from your body.
6. Reach for some OTC relief
If you’re experiencing hangxiety, chances are pretty high that you have other symptoms of a hangover too:
- muscle aches
Sometimes over-the-counter (OTC) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) offer relief. Just start with a small dose because NSAIDs and alcohol can be a dangerous mix.
7. Get some perspective
If the hangxiety is gnawing away at you because of something you said or did last night, take heart. We all make mistakes. You’re not the first person to have regrets after a night of drinking.
Regardless of what you said or did, the past is in the past. Fixating on it will not change it.
Instead of obsessing, you could process it on paper or out loud with someone you trust. Maybe talking it out will make you realize that what you did isn’t a big deal. Or maybe some perspective will help you make a plan for making amends and moving forward. The point is to move through the anxiety instead of pushing past it.
Let’s keep it 100: The only surefire way to prevent a hangover is to pass on the booze.
Here are a few more ways to stay smart while drinking:
- Set a limit. Because alcohol lowers inhibitions, it gets easier and easier to keep drinking as the night goes on. Set a limit for yourself at the beginning of the evening. You can even say it out loud or partner with a friend for accountability.
- Start with food. Have a meal or snack before you head to the bar. Drinking on a full stomach might slow your body’s absorption of alcohol *and* make you drink more slowly.
- Stay hydrated. Chase down every alcoholic drink with a glass of water. Matching your bevvies 1-to-1 will reduce your chance of a hangover.
- Pace yourself. Quantity isn’t the only measure of binge drinking. Timing matters too. Sip slowly, drink something nonalcoholic between each drink, and pay attention to your pacing.
Is it time to rethink your drinks?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with booze. Moderate drinking might even have its benefits.
But moderation isn’t always easy. If stopping yourself after a drink or two feels like it’s getting trickier or impossible, consider rethinking your drinking. And if booze has become your Rx of choice for bad days, it’s probably time to hit pause.
There’s no harm or shame in evaluating your drinking habits. It’s a great way to boost your self-awareness and potentially improve your overall health.
- Hangxiety is a psychological symptom of a hangover.
- Folks who are shy or who live with anxiety are more prone to hangxiety.
- Anxiety after drinking booze can indicate everything from dehydration to lack of sleep.
- To avoid future hangxiety, skip the booze or drink slowly and in moderation. For women, that’s no more than 1 drink per day. For men, that’s no more than 2 per day.
- If your drinking habits are negatively impacting your relationships or mood, consider cutting back.
Talk with a doctor or a mental health professional if you’re struggling to reign in your alcohol consumption.