Hangxiety: What is Hangover Anxiety?

Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 4, 2023

Table of Contents

Hangxiety is a relatively new term coined to express the anxiety some people experience after drinking alcohol.

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Anxiety associated with the thought of developing a hangover can persist for a few hours, typically until blood alcohol concentration returns to baseline levels. 

Learn more about hangxiety today from the symptoms and prevention of hangover-related anxiety to finding the most appropriate hangxiety treatment.

What is Hangxiety?

You maybe wondering, “what is hanxiety?”. Researchers have not been able to isolate a single cause for anxiety related to hangovers, but there are several theories that could explain hangover anxiety, commonly known as the term hangxiety.

When you consume alcohol, this causes your brain to produce high levels of dopamine. You’ll feel good as this chemical floods the brain, but the rush is fleeting. As dopamine levels dip again, feelings of anxiety can replace feelings of euphoria. 

Some of the most popular theories explaining hangxiety include: 

  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Dehydration
  • Social anxiety
  • Detoxing from alcohol
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Medications
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Worry or regret

Poor sleep patterns

Even if you don’t consume excessive amounts of alcohol, it can still negatively impact your sleep health. You may feel that a nightcap helps you to sleep, but the quality of sleep delivered after drinking alcohol is impaired. 

If you are already susceptible to anxiety, you will already likely be aware of a vicious cycle that develops: anxiety symptoms worsen when you get insufficient sleep, yet those same symptoms make it challenging to sleep properly. 

Anyone who habitually uses alcohol as a sleep-aid should immediately rethink this strategy. 

Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic that increases the frequency of urination. Compounding this issue, if you are drinking alcohol, you are likely not drinking enough water while you are knocking back alcoholic beverages. These factors combine to bring about dehydration. Research shows that dehydration can lead to anxiety, as well as triggering other adverse mood changes.

Social Anxiety

Anyone suffering from social anxiety may find a couple of alcoholic drinks helps them to relax and cope with feelings of anxiety or nervousness in the lead-up or during social events.

Although small quantities of alcohol can increase relaxation and reduce shyness, as the effects of alcohol wear off, the symptoms of social anxiety rebound. In some classic manifestations of hangxiety, you might even feel worse

Detoxing from alcohol

The alcohol detoxification period can last for several hours, and can be legitimately considered a minor form of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal is characterized by feelings of anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, and jitteriness. The same applies to hangxiety.

Emotional withdrawal

When you consume alcohol, this leads to the release of feel-good endorphins, followed by a predictable crash. This means drinking alcohol may initially numb physical or emotional pain, but it will do nothing to make that pain dissipate. 

Medications

Some medications, especially anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory medications, react adversely with alcohol. The effect of these medications is reduced, and you may also feel more anxious. 

Alcohol intolerance

Alcohol intolerance or alcohol allergy can bring on many symptoms similar to the symptoms of anxiety after drinking. These include: 

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Worry or regret

When you start drinking alcohol, your inhibitions will drop and you’ll feel comfier and more relaxed. Alcohol is renowned as a social lubricant for good reason.

Unfortunately, after three or more drinks, all of the following are impaired:

  • Speech
  • Thinking
  • Judgment
  • Reasoning

If you wake up after a night of heavy drinking worrying about what you said, what you did, or what kind of messages you sent when drunk, this is perhaps a manifestation of hangxiety.

To reiterate, it is not fully understood why hangxiety occurs, and perhaps all of the above theories have a role to play.

How Long Does Hangxiety Last?

Everyone experiences hangxiety differently. You may be wondering, “how long does hangxiety last?”. 

As a rough guideline, most symptoms will last for no more than 24 hours. Beyond this, symptoms of anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal can linger for days, sometimes weeks. 

How Long Does a Hangover Last?

Hangovers will last until the amount of alcohol in the blood returns to zero. Symptoms of a hangover typically only last about 24 hours. If symptoms persist past this timeline, it might be in your best interest to get medical advice. 

an image of someone with hangxiety

Hangxiety Symptoms

Hangxiety causes the following hangover-related hangxiety symptoms: 

  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Thirst
  • Nausea
  • Body aches
  • Headaches

Additional symptoms of hangxiety include any or all of the following: 

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Racing heart
  • Knot in the stomach
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to sleep
  • Problems with focus
  • Difficulty relaxing

How to cure hangxiety, then? 

Hangxiety Cure

The best cure for hangxiety is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Here are some pointers for minimizing anxiety after drinking: 

  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach
  • Drink a glass of water after each alcoholic drink
  • Limit your consumption

How to Get Rid of Hangxiety

What can you do if it’s too late and you are already feeling the effects of hangxiety?

Don’t panic: that will only make things worse. Instead, follow this roadmap to feeling calm and anxiety-free after abusing alcohol. 

  • Rehydrate by drinking small glasses of water throughout the day
  • Eat light meals of mild, bland foods
  • Rest and sleep
  • Try OTC pain relievers if necessary

Remember: the best way to avoid hangxiety is not to drink alcohol abusively.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.