Saturday, October 1, 2022

What is "hangxiety" and why does it affect some people?

The morning after a night of drinking is never enjoyable with a hangover. The most common symptoms of a hangover include headaches, exhaustion, thirst, and nausea. However, some individuals also report experiencing "hangxiety"—feelings of uneasiness during a hangover. Anxiety with a hangover affects approximately 12% of people, and the severity varies.

A hangover induces a state of physiological stress when the body recovers from a night of drinking. In general, physiological stress occurs when the body is under pressure—for example, as a result of a sickness or accident. A hangover functions in a similar manner. Not only does it change our immune system, but it also raises cortisol levels, which are often called the "stress hormone." Anxiety also changes blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol levels.

The brain also undergoes alterations. According to research, dopamine-related brain activity (a type of neurotransmitter) is reduced during a hangover. This is significant because dopamine plays a crucial role in anxiety regulation.

Intriguingly, the combination of stress and sleep deprivation (representing features of a hangover) can result in reductions in both mood and cognitive function (including attention and memory). Additionally, fatigue, worry, and the presence of other unpleasant hangover symptoms might make it difficult to do daily duties. For instance, a person with a hangover may be too focused on treating their nausea, headache, and weariness to properly manage worrisome thoughts.


According to our own research, people feel a negative emotional shift during a hangover. Many also reported having greater difficulty controlling their emotions than when they are not hungover. In other words, during a hangover, individuals feel terrible and find it difficult to recover.

However, when asked to regulate their emotions during a computer activity, participants were able to do so to the same level as when they were not hungover, albeit with greater effort. Some people may have anxiety because they have a harder time controlling their feelings when they have a hangover.

In a separate study, our team examined the effects of hangovers on cognitive abilities that are crucial to many areas of our daily lives, such as working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. The participants were given a variety of mental skills-testing tasks, such as memorising a string of letters and recalling them when prompted.

Changes in mood after a hangover are also linked to bad life experiences, feeling sad or angry while drinking, feeling guilty about drinking, and even certain personality traits, like neuroticism.

We observed that hungover individuals had poorer performance in critical mental processes that aid in anxiety management and the suppression of anxious thoughts. If these cognitive abilities are impaired by a hangover, this may help explain why certain individuals struggle with anxiety. But why do some people experience hangxiety while others do not?

Almost every hangover is accompanied by pain, such as a headache or sore muscles. However, according to a study, individuals who "catastrophize" pain (a tendency to exaggerate pain or anticipate the worst) are more prone to experiencing anxiety. According to research, this demographic is also more likely to develop severe hangovers. This may explain why some individuals suffer from anxiety while others do not.


Those who are vulnerable to worry in general may also be more susceptible to hangxiety. Negative life events, melancholy or rage while drinking, guilt from drinking, and even specific personality qualities (such as neuroticism) are also associated with alterations in mood following a hangover. People who say they are very shy are more likely to have hangxiety, which may be linked to symptoms of an alcohol use disorder.

These facts demonstrate why hangxiety can affect individuals differently and why it is a critical aspect of hangovers. Not only are mood changes caused by a hangover annoying, but they may also lead to more drinking problems, more fights with other people, and less work getting done.

If you feel hangxiety, you can benefit from the same treatments that alleviate anxiety. This may involve meditation, mindfulness practise, and self-care. Planning ahead to make sure you have the next day off to rest and avoid other stresses (like work or family problems) may also help you deal with the extra mental stress.

For some, a hangover can be used as a bonding opportunity, allowing them to discuss their previous night of drinking with pals and perhaps overcome their anxieties together. Obviously, the ideal method to avoid suffering from hangxiety is to not drink at all, or to consume alcohol in moderation.



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