The term “hangxiety” has become a popular buzzword for the feeling a person gets after a night of heavy or prolonged drinking. It describes the state of being hungover and feeling overwhelmingly anxious, guilty, or stressed. Usually, the feelings get worse as the day goes on.
What Causes Hangxiety?
When a person drinks alcohol the pleasure center of their brain receives a flood of dopamine and serotonin, two of the brain’s neurotransmitters. As the feel-good chemicals travel between the neurons, the person experiences a rush, or high. However, the good feeling only lasts a short time; as dopamine and serotonin levels drop, feelings of anxiety take over and mood levels are uncontrolled.
Heavy drinking also causes an increase of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which makes the person feel calm and relaxed. Their body gets used to the calm feeling, but when the drinking stops and withdrawal begins, the person often feels anxious.
Does Everyone Experience Hangxiety?
The people most likely to experience hangxiety are those who suffer from anxiety and depression. While drinking alcohol often suppresses their anxious feelings, once they begin to sober up their anxiety levels often surpass their baseline levels, causing an intense flow of uncomfortable feelings and emotions. According to an article on PsychCentral, very shy people are at a higher risk of experiencing hangxiety during a hangover than those who are more out-going.
What are People Anxious About?
The range of hangxiety worries run the gamut from wondering if you said anything embarrassing during your night of drinking to feeling intense dread and paranoia as you try to go over everything that happened during that time.
Your mind tries to replay the evening through the foggy haze of your hangover: “Did I offend anyone? Did I say anything embarrassing? Do all my friends hate me now? Did I look stupid to everyone? Did I send a text or a picture I will regret?”
Sometimes people feel shame as they try to remember if they flirted with a friend’s date or heckled the entertainer. The mind races through fuzzy memories, and you keep asking yourself questions you can’t answer, such as “Why did I make a total fool of myself?” or “ Why did I say that?” The more anxious and worried you become, the worse you feel.
How to Eliminate Hangxiety
The only way to completely eliminate hangxiety is to not drink at all. However, there are things you can do to keep it in check and still enjoy an evening out with your friends.
- Eat before you go out. When you eat before drinking alcohol, the food helps line your stomach which slows down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Choosing slow-release energy foods helps keep your blood sugar and your mood level more stable and consistent.
- Set a limit on the number of drinks you are going to have. Limit your intake of alcohol by drinking a glass of water between every alcoholic drink.
- Choose mixed long drinks. When you add soda or tonic to your drinks, you stay more hydrated. When you are hydrated, you are better able to concentrate.
- Never mix your drinks. Mixing beer, shots, mixed drinks, or wine on the same evening causes different by-products and more toxins to be released by the different alcohols.
- Get out of bed when you wake up. Go for a walk. The fresh air will give you a fresh perspective and get your blood pumping. Don’t stay in bed worrying about what might have happened the night before.
- Breathe to relax. Deep breathing is a known stress reliever, and it signals your brain to calm down and relax. Try this simple 5-5-5 technique:
- Breathe in to a count of five.
- Hold your breath for a count of five.
- Breathe out to the count of five.
Can Hangxiety Indicate an Alcohol Use Disorder?
A research study on Science Direct explains that shy people who experience hangxiety are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol, called alcohol use disorder. The study found that many shy people drink to relax their inhibitions and be more social. They then experience hangxiety and many drink again to reduce the anxious feelings they are having; this could be the beginning of the cycle of alcohol use disorder.
Help is Available
If you or a loved one has an addiction to alcohol or drugs, there is help available. Call and speak to a counselor at Canyon Vista Recovery Center in Mesa, Arizona. They will be able to answer your questions and explain their comprehensive program to help guide you toward a clean and sober life.