Some people experience anxiety after drinking. This hangover-related anxiety, or “hangxiety,” can last for several hours after a person’s blood alcohol levels return to normal.
In this article, learn more about hangover anxiety, including its symptoms and how to prevent it.
Anxiety is a relatively common hangover symptom.
In a 2017 study, 1,837 people between the ages of 18 and 30 completed a survey that included questions about various hangover symptoms. Although anxiety was the least common reported symptom, it still affected 22.6% of the participants.
However, certain people may be more vulnerable to anxiety. In addition, some specific changes in the body may increase the risk.
Possible causes of anxiety during a hangover include:
Sometimes, anxiety during a hangover is a product of a person’s actions during or after drinking, rather than the alcohol itself.
For example, a person with a hangover may drink coffee to relieve the symptoms. In some people, caffeine triggers anxiety.
A person may also feel anxious if they cannot remember what happened when they were drunk, or if they said or did things that they regret.
Decreased cognitive function, which includes a reduced ability to make good decisions, is common during a hangover. It may lead to actions that produce anxiety when a person reflects on them later.
People with anxiety disorders may use alcohol to cope with the symptoms. As a result, they will typically feel more anxious when they are not drinking.
Some people with chronic anxiety find that their symptoms are worse during a hangover, when dehydration, an upset stomach, and exhaustion may make anxiety feel more physically and emotionally intense.
The study found that drinking led to a slight decrease in anxiety among shy individuals. However, the next day, they reported more intense anxiety.
The researchers also noted a correlation between alcohol use disorder and anxiety elevation among shy study participants.
Alcohol use disorder
People with alcohol use disorder may experience withdrawal when they do not use alcohol. Anxiety may be a symptom of withdrawal.
Amount of alcohol
While it is possible to get a hangover even after minimal consumption, the risk of hangover-related anxiety may increase with the amount of alcohol that a person drinks.
The reason for this is that higher alcohol consumption increases other hangover risk factors, such as dehydration. It can also have a more significant effect on how a person behaves while drinking, which they may feel concerned about when hungover.
Some people experience anxiety every time they have a hangover. The interaction of several factors may cause a hangover.
These factors include:
- Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it can cause dehydration. The dehydration may be worse for people who drink insufficient water alongside alcohol.
- Sleep deprivation: Sometimes, spending an evening drinking leads to a late night with little sleep.
- Acetaldehyde: The liver metabolizes alcohol, helping the body get rid of it. This metabolization creates a byproduct called acetaldehyde that causes inflammation in the pancreas, brain, liver, digestive tract, and some other organs.
- Mild withdrawal: People without alcohol use disorder can still experience a short withdrawal period, especially after heavy drinking. However, the withdrawal associated with alcohol use disorder is usually more severe and can last for several days.
People with hangover-related anxiety may have other hangover symptoms, such as thirst, fatigue, feeling slow or less alert, stomach problems, or body aches.
They may also experience:
- the feeling of a knot in the stomach
- a racing heart
- feelings of guilt or shame
- restlessness that makes it difficult to concentrate, sleep, or relax
Anxiety from a hangover is not usually long lasting. In a study in mice, researchers identified signs of anxiety for up to 14 hours after the rodents’ blood alcohol levels returned to normal.
In cases where anxiety lingers much longer, it may be a sign of a different issue, such as alcohol withdrawal or an anxiety disorder.
There is no completely effective treatment for a hangover, but drinking plenty of fluids and resting can often help.
Pain relievers may ease physical symptoms, such as a headache, but they will not treat anxiety.
Some people find that deep breathing or meditation helps hangover anxiety, while others wait for it to pass.
People who experience regular anxiety during hangovers may wish to check experts’ guidance on whether they are drinking too much.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define heavy drinking as:
- four or more drinks in a single session for females
- five or more drinks in a single session for males
- eight or more drinks per week for females
- 15 or more drinks per week for males
Finding it challenging or impossible to quit drinking and needing to drink to feel “normal” can also be signs of alcohol use disorder.
Addictions are treatable medical conditions. Many people find relief with the right combination of therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes.
Some people may consider keeping a log of anxiety episodes that follow drinking to determine whether certain situations or quantities of alcohol cause anxiety.
Some other strategies that might help include:
- drinking plenty of water during and after alcohol consumption
- avoiding coffee and other stimulants that may increase anxiety
- drinking only with trusted friends
- avoiding people and places that may encourage behavior that a person will regret the next day
Other people may wish to prevent hangover-related anxiety by reducing or eliminating drinking.
Hangover-related anxiety is fairly common and usually goes away on its own.
However, chronic or severe anxiety during hangovers may be an important clue that a person’s body is not tolerating alcohol well or that they should speak to a doctor about anxiety.