Beer fear! What is REALLY happening to your brain the morning after a big night out and how you can combat that crippling ‘hangxiety’
- Experts break down what causes the dreaded ‘hangxiety’ and how to combat it
- READ MORE: Experts reveal hangover cures that really work and those that don’t
Waking up after a big night out, with a pounding headache and hazy memories of the night before, is a situation no one wants to find themselves in.
As well as the physical hangover symptoms such as nausea and dehydration, the dreaded ‘hangxiety’ can be crippling.
The word play on hangover and anxiety, describes the feeling you get the morning after drinking, that can last for hours or even days.
You’re overwhelmed and paranoid and you can’t pinpoint why, as you replay the night in your mind and overthink everything you said and did.
MailOnline spoke to experts and doctors about what ‘hangxiety’ really is and how you can combat the extreme emotions.
As well as the physical hangover symptoms such as nausea and dehydration, the dreaded ‘hangxiety’ can be crippling
NHS GP, Dr. Hana Patel,, explains that some people get ‘hangxiety’ more than others.
She explained that: ‘Research and evidence shows that there is a strong link between drinking excess alcohol (more than 14 units a week) and depression.
‘Hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.
‘The reason that alcohol can make us feel anxious or depressed is that it is a depressant.
‘This means it causes chemical changes in your brain that might make you feel calmer and more relaxed at first’.
However, she adds that when you stop drinking and the effects of alcohol wear off, it can ‘worsen any feelings of anxiety, guilt, or shame’.
The doctor continued: ‘Drinking alcohol makes us feel dehydrated, affects our sleep and can reduce our blood sugar, increasing the sensation of anxiety.
‘Hangxiety can affect anyone after drinking alcohol. But while these feelings may be barely noticeable for some, others may find them a problem.
NHS GP, Dr. Hana Patel, , explains that some people get ‘hangxiety’ more than others
READ MORE: Expert reveals exactly how long it takes for your body to return to normal after a full weekend of drinking – and it’s longer than you think
‘You might be more prone to the effects of hangxiety if you tend already to experience anxiety more frequently as alcohol can worsen it’.
Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, listed typical hangxiety symptoms as: intense worrying, feeling paranoid, difficulty with concentration, going over and over past events, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
She explained: ‘These symptoms can last anything from a few hours to 24 hours or longer.
‘Having ‘hangxiety’ does not mean you are an alcoholic – it can happen to anyone after a heavy night out.
‘However, if you are experiencing ‘hangxiety,’ this is a sign that it’s time to cut down or stop drinking’.
She broke down the scientific reason behind the phenomenon: ‘Alcohol affects the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) pathway in the brain – the brain’s neuroinhibitory pathway.
‘When alcohol stimulates the GABA receptor, it switches on this inhibitory system, making you feel disinhibited and relaxed.
‘But the next morning, when the alcohol has been metabolised, the brain produces more GABA along with the neurotransmitter glutamate, which has the effect of making you feel more anxious.
‘If you already suffer from anxiety, drinking alcohol is likely to worsen your anxiety symptoms when the alcohol wears off.’
Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, also weighed in on the topic
How to stop ‘hangxiety’
When it comes to stopping hangxiety, both experts’ advice is not what drinkers want to hear – it’s to stop consuming alcohol altogether.
However, if you don’t want to do that, Dr Deborah Lee advises you should:
- Not drink on an empty stomach, eat before you go out
- Eat while you are drinking
- Drink plenty of water, one glass for every alcoholic drink
- Choose low-alcohol drinks. Space your drinks out. Drink soft drinks in between
- Eat a good breakfast the morning after – eggs on toast can provide some much-needed protein and carbs, as well as B vitamins Food will help restore your blood sugar levels.
- Do some exercise – a walk or some gentle yoga. It’s not advisable to do a heavy workout when hungover as you are likely to be dehydrated but fresh air and a walk can be helpful
- Take medication – there is no perfect hangover cure, but taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for a headache, antacids for acid reflux/indigestion or an anti-sickness remedy such as ondansetron for nausea and vomiting, can help
- Rest – Try and catch up on lost sleep. Drinking alcohol results in disturbed sleep with less REM sleep and frequent night time waking
- Relax – Try mindfulness and/or meditation. Have a warm bath or shower and listen to gentle music
She also suggests trying ‘mindful drinking,’ which means ‘deciding what you will drink when you are out, sticking to your plan and enjoying the drinks you have’.
The doctor explains: ‘Mindful drinking is a movement, supported by doctors, to help people cut their alcohol consumption. It can help reduce your alcohol consumption by 30% or more’.
Mindful drinking is similar to being ‘sober curious,’ a trend that’s taken over social media recently – it’s for those that want to reevaluate their relationship with alcohol.
The advice comes just after Millie Gooch, from Kent, spoke out about going from being a party girl ‘with constant hangxiety’ to being sober aged 26.
She started drinking regularly at 18, during Freshers’ week when she started her course in English language and literature at the University of Sussex.
She says the drinking culture meant she would binge on booze several times every week and regularly drink pints of vodka-Red Bull on nights out – but, at the time, she didn’t see an issue.
Now, she’s been sober for more than five years and she’s ‘happier than ever’ – she runs the Sober Girl Society – a community for sober and sober curious women.
While ‘nothing in particular’ prompted her to quit – she says she had a sudden realisation that she didn’t want to carry on living with her problems with alcohol.
She said: ‘The hangover I gave up on was pretty normal for me – nothing life-changing happened, it was nothing crazy.
‘But I just had this sense of clarity – I can’t keep living like this.
‘I didn’t want to use drink to cope with social anxiety – I was sick of going on dates and not being able to remember what happened the night before.
‘It was miserable, and I was struggling.’
She adds: ‘;I just feel a lot calmer now,’ she said. ‘I’m able to manage my mental health a lot better.
‘I’m much more stable – I no longer create all my own problems and disasters. I’m much happier.’
DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK
One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.
The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.
Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.
8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).
16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.
Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.
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