“I’m never drinking again.”
How many times have you said this to your friends after a night of excessive drinking? When the hangover has your head spinning, your mouth dry, and your body weak— too weak to check your phone for whatever ungodly texts you don’t remember sending.
Although it might be a short-lived promise to never actually drink again, your tendency to regret your actions from the night before can be due to more than just embarrassment for your personal and social life.
A study has found that depression and anxiety can be an effect of your debilitating hangover, and you’re NOT the only one feeling it.
Leave it to the master of all social commentary, Reddit, to have a subreddit specifically about "hangxiety" where people come to discuss treatment and explain their symptoms.
So, What is Hangxiety?
This phenomenon, defined by Urban Dictionary as “the feeling of overwhelming guilt, stress, and worry you experience the day after a drinking binge” is affecting drinkers everywhere.
Think about it: have you ever felt a sense of panic or anguish over what you may have done after having that third dirty martini? Has the thought of it made you short of breath or unable to sleep? If so, this could be hangxiety at work in your hungover brain.
According to a 2012 study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, 1,400 Dutch students were surveyed about their drinking habits and frequency of hangovers along with their symptoms. 7.4% reported that they suffered from anxiety as well as other typical hangover symptoms like dizziness or nausea, while 18.9% reported suffering from depression as well.
So much for having fun, right?
The question is, why is anxiety and depression triggered after a night of drinking, and is there a way to stop it from happening? Well, if you want to prevent hangxiety, first you have to understand how it works.
George F. Koob, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism told SELF:
“I think of hangovers as, more or less, a mini-withdrawal from alcohol, and anxiety is one of the components.”
The symptoms of withdrawal if you drank a copious amount of booze the night before, or if you’ve been drinking for days or weeks straight, can enhance the feelings of anxiety the next day.
Your brain can only handle so much trauma a.k.a. the continued depletion of your serotonin, the neurotransmitter that controls your happy mood that increased alcohol intake disrupts.
The double-edged sword of drinking with an anxiety disorder, for anyone who lives with it on the regular, is that people who already suffer from social anxiety can use drinking as a way to reduce it. These people might have the tendency to drink a little more in order to loosen up, not knowing that makes things inevitably worse.
In addition to feeling shitty because of consuming too much alcohol the night before, you can heighten the feelings of anxiety you already had, triggering depression and feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
Even worse, some who continue to suffer also continue to drink, not only actually increasing their anxiety under the guise that they are decreasing it, but building a reliance on alcohol, making the brain less and less able to cope with anxious and depressed feelings and with withdrawal.
That’s why most of the responses to hangxiety posts on Reddit have similar advice: you should think about not drinking so much. Easier said than done when according to Psychology Today, “alcohol is the most widely consumed drug worldwide.”
Declining bottomless mimosas and a game of “Edward Fortyhands” will surely help you eliminate feelings of hangxiety, and for New Yorkers, it’s also a way to save money for healthier methods of self-care.
Image credit: Strange Cargo
While hangxiety doesn’t technically have a cure, there are steps you can take to improve your mental and physical health, like exercise and meditation. Focusing on your mental health is the best self-care there is.
Before you order that fifth drink, think about how you might feel in the morning because of it.
Feature image credit: Getty Images