Hangxiety: Linking Alcohol & Anxiety

Hangover anxiety or “hangxiety” is something that comes with a hangover. While most people are familiar with the physical symptoms of a hangover, such as a headache and nausea, hangovers can also have psychological symptoms, including anxiety. These feelings of anxiety are a relatively new phenomenon, but while experts have not identified a single cause, the fact is that there is a link between the two.

How Does Alcohol Make Anxiety Worse?

Alcohol can worsen anxiety because of its effects on the body and the brain. In the brain, alcohol changes the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters resulting in feeling more anxiety. 

Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for a few hours or up to an entire day after consuming alcohol. While alcohol acts as a sedative so people can put a hold on their anxiety, the sense of relaxation is short-lived. 

When these effects wear off, those pleasant feelings fade quickly which reduces our serotonin levels, which is commonly associated with increased anxiety.

Who Is Likely To Develop Hangxiety?

Research has found that shy people are more likely to experience this level of anxiety during a hangover. On the surface, this makes complete sense because people who experience more social anxiety in certain situations are more likely to use alcohol as a crutch. 

A study conducted at University College London in the United Kingdom concluded that people who are highly shy are more likely to experience a significant increase in anxiety the day after consuming alcohol. There was also a link found between high levels of anxiety the next day and symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in very shy individuals.

Does Hangxiety Indicate an Alcohol Use Disorder?

While this study has concluded that there is a link between alcohol use disorder and anxiety, the reality is that anybody can experience hangxiety for a number of reasons:

Social Anxiety

If you live with anxiety or social anxiety, you may find that having a drink or two can help you to cope with any nervous feelings prior to or during a social event. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.055 is the threshold to increase feelings of relaxation and reduce shyness. However, anxieties return when the alcohol wears off. 

Alcohol Detoxification

Depending on an individual’s tolerance to alcohol, the body will have to work harder to process it out of the system. The detoxification period can be considered as a mild form of withdrawal, which may take a few hours. When people are going through withdrawal, there are natural physical symptoms such as restlessness and anxiety. 

Emotional Withdrawal

When our body releases endorphins, the feel-good hormone in our body, these levels can decrease over a period of several days. Drinking alcohol can trigger more endorphins, resulting in a longer come down, but can also increase the likelihood of addiction. 

Alcohol Allergies

Also known as alcohol intolerance, it can cause symptoms that may resemble symptoms of anxiety. Symptoms like sleeplessness, nausea, fatigue and a rapid heartbeat can result in feelings of anxiety. 

Regrets or Concerns

Consuming alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making you feel more relaxed. As having a number of drinks can impair functions like speech, balance, reasoning, and judgment, people may say or do things they normally would not, meaning a greater level of regret and anxiety the next day. 

Disrupted Sleep

Because alcohol can disrupt your sleep quality you can feel anxiety symptoms when you don’t sleep properly.

How Can I Get Help if I Struggle With Alcoholism and Anxiety?

Many people use alcohol as support when in social situations. If you are someone who uses alcohol as a way to curb anxiety but feels these sensations of hangxiety the next day, this can be due to a number of reasons. 

For those people who are naturally shy, alcohol can lower inhibitions which can mean an increased feeling of anxiety the next day. Because alcohol is a depressant, this can make anxiety worse. Someone who is already using alcohol as a way to feel better can find themselves in a cycle where they depend on alcohol to reduce any feelings of anxiety. But because alcohol plays with the neurotransmitters in the brain, it’s important to recognize that this is a cycle that we need to break out of.

Reach Out to Peaks Recovery

Alcohol and anxiety are co-occurring disorders, which is why if you are experiencing any form of alcoholism, anxiety or you realize that alcohol is causing the anxiety or vice versa, you can reach out for help at Peaks Recovery