Alcohol and hangxiety
Find out what hangxiety is and how you can prevent it
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Some people experience psychological symptoms such as feeling anxious or depressed the morning after drinking, this is sometimes colloquially known as ‘hangxiety.’ You may be more familiar with the physical symptoms of a hangover, like headaches and an upset stomach. But many find the psychological impacts just as hard to deal with.
There are several ways in which a hangover from alcohol can cause or worsen anxiety1. Alcohol is a depressant. This means it causes chemical changes in your brain that might make you feel calmer and more relaxed at first. But when you stop drinking and the effects of alcohol wear off, it can heighten any feelings of anxiety, guilt, or shame.
Feeling dehydrated, disturbed sleep, and having low sugar levels are associated with drinking heavily the night before and can all contribute to anxiety1. Alcohol can also lower our inhibitions – often making us say or do things we later regret and can add to a general sense of doom or worry the next day.
And chemically, the brain has had to handle the alcohol (ethanol molecules) and then has to readjust as the alcohol wears off (when it's been metabolised).
Hangxiety can affect anyone after drinking alcohol. But while these feelings may be barely noticeable for some, others may find them a problem. You might be more prone to the effects of hangxiety if you tend already to experience anxiety more frequently as alcohol can worsen it.
Hangxiety can be a particular problem for people with social anxiety2. If you’re uncomfortable in social situations, you may be tempted to use alcohol to feel more confident or relaxed. Once the effects of alcohol have worn off though, feelings of anxiety can rebound – often to an even greater degree than before. This can be hard to deal with on top of other physical symptoms of a hangover.
The best way to avoid hangxiety is to not drink at all.
If you do choose to drink, the Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines recommend having no more than 14 units a week, spread over three or more days with several drink-free days, and no bingeing.
If you’re worried about how alcohol may be affecting or causing your anxiety:
If you’re experiencing hangxiety you may find it helps to tackle the physical symptoms of a hangover first, such as a headache and sickness. This may make you feel stronger, and better able to deal with your anxiety, too. Try and drink plenty of water to rehydrate and rest. It’s also best to avoid any ‘hair of the dog’ drinking. If you really need it, you can take a painkiller (such as paracetamol) and an antacid to settle your stomach.
If you suffer from anxiety, there are ways to reduce your anxiety without alcohol. You might want to try one of these and see what works best for you.
Last Reviewed: 9th January 2023
Next Review due: 9th January 2025