Do You Suffer From Hangxiety? It’s Real, And It’s More Common Than You Think.

In partnership with the Health Improvement Commission.

Have you ever woken up suffering from ‘hangxiety’? It’s that feeling of anxiety you experience after a night out - or a night in - when you’ve maybe had a few too many drinks and you wake up feeling anxious and worried.

Well, you’re not alone. It’s on the rise, and for some people it can be so extreme that it even leads to panic attacks. Read on to find out more.



What is Hangxiety?

We’ve all been there, wishing you had said no to that extra glass of wine at the end of the evening when you wake up from a restless night’s sleep with a raging thirst, a heavy head and the knowledge that you’ll have to drag your tired body through the long day ahead. It’s not a great start to your morning. But it could be worse. 

For some people, the physical symptoms of a hangover are the least of their worries - literally. The headache and nausea are eclipsed by a feeling of anxiety that 'hangs over' them. If this is you, you’ll recognise these thoughts and feelings. 

Worrying that you made a silly remark that made you look stupid or offended someone. Scrolling fearfully in case that message you sent could have been misinterpreted, or maybe there’s an embarrassing photo or comment online. Overthinking everything you said, or could’ve said, or should’ve said... You get the picture. Even when you know it was an evening or harmless fun, that emotional turmoil is the price you pay for drinking alcohol.


What Causes Hangxiety?

There are several reasons why alcohol can cause, or worsen, feelings of anxiety. Alcohol Change explains that Alcohol is a depressant, which causes chemical changes in your brain. It affects the body’s neurotransmitters - the chemicals that send messages between the nerves in your brain - and disrupts the balance in your brain, changing your mood and emotions. Put simply, your brain initially reacts to alcohol by helping you to feel more relaxed, but when the effects of alcohol wear off can be easier for negative feelings of anxiety, guilt or shame to creep in. 

Less direct effects of drinking alcohol can also contribute to your hangxiety, such as dehydration, poor sleep and low sugar levels the next morning. And the reality is that alcohol can also lower your inhibitions, so your hangxiety can stem from the realisation that you have said or done something that you regret, adding to your worries the next day.



Who Experiences Hangxiety?

Each and every one of us will have felt some level of anxiety after drinking alcohol. It may just be a passing anxious thought when you wake up that you banish straight away, or it could be an overwhelming feeling of worry and dread that stays with you, sometimes for days. 

Like physical hangover symptoms, the severity of your hangxiety is dependent on many things and no two people will experience the same feelings. But how much alcohol you had to drink and how anxious you are feeling in general will most definitely be significant factors. 

Put simply, if you are prone to feeling anxious, you are more likely to experience hangxiety. It’s an alcohol induced reaction that around 12% of people experience, with medical experts at The Priory seeing a rise in recent years due to people feeling more isolated and experiencing more emotional strain in recent years. In some cases it can be so severe that it results in full blown panic attacks


'The older we get the harder it becomes to metabolize alcohol so its harder to avoid a hangover. By having a glass of water between each drink, not drinking more than one alcohol drink every one to two hours, eating before drinking and choosing the lower strength alcohol drinks are all ways of avoiding hangxiety.'
Andrea Nightingale, HIC Substance Use Lead


How Can You Avoid Hangxiety?

How and when hangxiety strikes varies from person to person. Sometimes it can rear its head after just one glass of wine, and other times you may not experience it at all. It can be linked to how you are feeling in general, and what’s going on in your life. If you’re feeling stressed or worried about something, a drink might help you unwind in the short term, but the hangxiety after effects can hit hard the next day. 

So the obvious way to avoid hangxiety is to stop drinking alcohol, or to drink in moderation so that feelings of anxiety are less likely to be triggered when you drink. 

An alternative path that many people are opting for is sober curiosity, leaving hangxiety behind by helping to change the narrative and making alcohol free nights out an accepted lifestyle choice. It’s not about choosing sobriety because you have a problem with alcohol, rather it’s a choice to drink less, or not at all, for the lifestyle benefits that brings. Leaving ‘hangover anxiety’ behind is just one of the many benefits of embracing a sober curious lifestyle.


Joining the sober curious movement can be a good way to hit the reset button on your drinking habits. But if you find yourself struggling with the concept or you're looking for information and guidance to help you make an informed decision, take a look at How To Recognise If You're Drinking Too Much... And What You Can Do About It.

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