If you’ve ever woken up with a pit of dread in your stomach after a night of drinking, you understand the less known, though still brutal, side of hangovers. Headaches, nausea, and fatigue after a night of drinking are never fun, but the feeling of existential dread and the assumption that you’ve embarrassed yourself beyond repair? That’s the real kicker. Some studies have even shown that hangxiety can last 14-16 hours after the more common hangover symptoms.
So why does alcohol cause hangxiety? The first reason is that drinking alcohol hits your brain with waves of dopamine. It is one of the reasons drinking alcohol is such an enjoyable experience for so many people. However, alcohol related dopamine boosts only last for a short period of time. When dopamine levels dip back down to normal levels, feelings of anxiety can spike.
The second reason for alcohol induced anxiety is related to gamma aminobutyric acid. Drinking high amounts of alcohol creates physiological changes in the brain, namely an influx in gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is released while drinking which is a primary reason for feelings of relaxation and calmness while under the influence. When the alcohol leaves your system, GABA production is reduced and it becomes more difficult to regulate emotions. Stress and feelings of depression are common symptoms of low GABA production, hence the occurrence of hangxiety after high levels of alcohol consumption.
Whatever the cause, hangxiety is objectively uncomfortable. So how can you prevent it? The first answer is to not consume high levels of alcohol, but this is not always a reasonable solution. There are times when accidental (or not) overindulgence happens … so now what? The best solution is to wake up and get moving. If you’re hungover and feeling anxious, odds are you might not want to lift weights or go for an intense run, but a short walk or 30 minute yoga session can significantly lessen feelings of anxiety.
The second solution is to take preventative measures to curb hangxiety before it happens. A great way to lessen hangover anxiety is to eat a big dinner and drink water before consuming any alcohol! We’re sure you’ve heard it a thousand times, but fueling your body and hydrating before a night of drinking is a fantastic way to look out for your future self. Also consider taking an alcohol aid before drinking. Supplements like BetterMorning that include Dihydromyricetin (DHM) can help lessen the following morning’s hangxiety!
Struggling with hangxiety can make deciding to drink feel scary. We hope that understanding the science behind it and knowing the tricks to remedy it can help you to feel a little more at ease. Throwing back cocktails with your friends is fun, don’t let hangxiety drag you down. You got this!