Hangxiety After Drinking: What Are the Risk Factors?
Anyone who has overindulged in drinking can tell you about the unpleasant symptoms of a hangover the following morning. Along with the physical symptoms, some people also experience some psychological symptoms, too. When these spin out of control, they are commonly called “hangxiety,” and researchers have recently discovered that some people are more likely to be affected in the hours after overindulging in alcohol.
What is Hangxiety?
The term for a hangover with a side of anxiety has now been dubbed “hangxiety,” and you can find discussions of hangover anxiety all over the interwebs and forums, like on Reddit. While hangxiety isn’t necessarily a new concept, it could be that society’s finally started buzzing about the phenomenon because we’re more open about mental health in general (which is a good thing!).
Studies show that it’s a real thing that people are experiencing. A 2019 study published in Personality and Individual Differences found that hangover anxiety after a day of drinking was most prevalent in highly shy people or people with deal with social anxiety.
Causes of Hangxiety:
A person may experience anxiety during a hangover for the same reasons they notice other hangover symptoms, including sleep deprivation and dehydration.
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:
Alcohol use disorder
People with alcohol use disorder may experience withdrawal when they do not use alcohol. Anxiety may be a symptom of withdrawal.
Some research suggests that people with a social anxiety disorder are more likely than other people to display signs of alcohol dependence or abuse.
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.
Certain medications, including some anxiety and anti-inflammatory medications, may interact with alcohol. Your medications may be less effective, and you may feel anxious, restless, or agitated.
Some medications also carry a risk of other side effects, including memory impairment or serious physical health concerns like ulcers or organ damage.
Folic acid deficiency
Not getting enough of the right nutrients can also affect mood symptoms. A 2011 study trusted Source on adults with depression or anxiety suggests a link between low levels of folic acid and these conditions.
Alcohol can also cause your folic acid levels to dip, which could explain why you don’t quite feel like yourself the next day.
People are also more likely to indulge in foods that might also trigger anxious feelings.
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.
When hanxiety could indicate a problem
A red flag for someone who may be wondering whether or not they have an alcohol use disorder is if you self-medicate anxiety with more alcohol. People who drink and then get anxious, and then start using the anxiety as an excuse for drinking…you’re beginning to get in trouble. If you have enough alcohol-induced anxiety that it affects your functioning, and you continue to drink despite knowledge of this effect, then it does become a basis for being diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder.
How to deal when hangxiety strikes
If you’re experiencing alcohol-induced anxiety due to withdrawal from alcohol (like if you’ve recently stopped drinking after drinking heavily often) then it’s wise to check in with a medical professional. They might suggest medication like a sedative to help with this temporary surge in anxiety and may be able to suggest other resources for recovering from AUD.
Even if you don’t have an alcohol use disorder, you can still experience hangxiety after a night of heavy drinking. If you wake up feeling gripped by anxiety, keep in mind that it might be because of the way your body and brain are processing the alcohol.
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