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  • Writer's pictureHayley Stevens

Hangxiety! Why We suffer Anxiety After Having One Too Many.

What is Hangxiety?

Hangovers can be hard enough but when coupled with anxiety they can be unbearable. The dreaded fear around what you may have said, how you behaved, did you cause any embarrassment can be crippling. Anxiety on top of a typical hangover which include feelings of thirst, tiredness, headaches and nausea is now being dubbed as ‘Hangxiety’

What are symptoms of Hangxiety?

Some of the most common symptoms associated with hangxiety include:

• Feeling depressed or anxious.

• Feeling overwhelmed, worried or embarrassed about the previous night, and over-analysing moments during drinking.

• A feeling of existential dread.

• Increased heart rate and state of restlessness.

• Inability to focus.

• Paranoia.

Why does Hangxiety occur?

Alcohol targets the Gaba (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptor, which sends chemical messages through the brain and central nervous system to inhibit the activity of nerve cells. Essentially it calms the brain, reducing excitement by making fewer neurons fire which is why you feel relaxed and cheerful.

However when the body registers this new imbalance in brain chemicals and it will attempt to put things right. It is a little like when you eat a lot of sweets and your body goes into insulin-producing overdrive to get the blood sugar levels down to normal; as soon as the sweets have been digested, all that insulin causes your blood sugar to crash. When you are drunk, your body goes on a mission to bring Gaba levels down to normal and turn glutamate back up. When you stop drinking, therefore, you end up with unnaturally low Gaba function and a spike in glutamate which then leads to anxiety.

Imbalances in Gaba and glutamate are not the only problem. Alcohol also causes a small rise in noradrenaline – known as the fight-or-flight hormone. Severe anxiety can be considered a surge of noradrenaline in the brain.

There is also the fact that when lots of alcohol is consumed it can lead us to saying things we wouldn’t usually say and experience memory blanks. Trying to fill in the blanks and going over and over conversations which we typically wouldn’t have when sober can lead to feelings of high anxiety. The loss of control for some when reviewing the events of the evening can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety as you may have put yourself in compromising positions.

Learning to manage alcohol consumption is important and enjoying alcohol in moderation without spiralling out of control will help with a reduction in the effects of ‘Hangxiety’. It is important to understand why you had ‘one too many’ even when you had every intention of being controlled. Finding out what your triggers are for indulging in one too many is life changing and dealing with the actual emotion will lead to better self control.

For instance, did you have a few too many to conquer the nerves you were experiencing when talking to new people? Was it large crowds or one on one conversations that made you uncomfortable? Do you feel people won’t find you interesting without drink? Do you feel pressured to drink more than you should by certain people? Are you numbing a pain happening in your life or avoiding something stressful? Are you just having a great time and can’t seem to have any self control?

In order to avoid anxiety asking your self these questions, looking at the situations and having coping skills for next time will completely transform your life. Breaking the cycle that leads to hangxiety will change your life for good and lead to a happier more balanced life.

Hayley Stevens

Clinical Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist

0207 459 4661

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