Hangover Anxiety: Feeling Down After Downing Alcohol?

Have you ever felt a bit down or just generally depressed the morning after a night of drinking a lot of alcohol? If this is something that you can relate to you, then you will be comforted to hear that you are not alone. This feeling is termed as “hangover anxiety”, a state where you feel symptoms of anxiety following the consumption of alcohol. These symptoms can be both mental–feeling depressed and/or restless, or physical–aching, feeling dehydrated and nauseous. Below you’ll find out why anxiety after drinking is commonly experienced, as well as some things that can help you out if you are feeling like this.

What Causes Hangover Anxiety?

While it is found that those who suffer from anxiety are more prone to feeling anxiety after drinking, it is also true that alcohol can cause symptoms of anxiety in a person that does not usually experience them. For this reason, it is important to understand the underlying reasons as to why a hangover can leave you feeling this way. These can be divided into mental and physical causes.

1. Mental Causes

  • Depression after drinking. Studies show that after alcohol use, your brain exhibits chemical signs of depression at a cellular level. Susan Scholl, a professor of health at Syracuse University, emphasises that “Alcohol is a depressant drug… not only does it depress what’s happening for you at a physiological level, but it can also have an emotional after-effect.” This means that the drinking of alcohol can induce hangover depression.  
  • Memory loss after drinking. Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short space of time can cause blanks in your memory. This occurs due to the sharp rise in your body’s blood alcohol content (expressed as a percentage of ethanol in the blood), a change which impairs the function of the brain whereby short-term memory is held in your long-term memory. This can result in hangover anxiety as a person stresses and worries about what may have happened during the points at which their memory lapses.

2. Physical Causes

  • Dehydration after drinking. Along with vomiting following excessive alcohol consumption which can cause dehydration, it also causes you to urinate more frequently which removes necessary water from your body. Usually when you are in this state, your body creates an anti-diuretic hormone which prevents urination to aid the retention of water. Alcohol inhibits this function, causing increased urination–on average, 200 millilitres of beer makes you urinate approximately 320 millilitres of urine.
  • Headaches and nausea after drinking. A direct result of this dehydration from alcohol use is headache. While this can occur up to only a few hours after drinking, the delayed alcohol-induced headache affects two-thirds of hangover sufferers, happening when your blood alcohol content falls to zero. While it is difficult to prove, it is often suggested that red wine is the biggest culprit in causing hangover headaches. Nausea is also a common symptom of a hangover. This is caused by both gastritis, a condition where your stomach lining is inflamed (acutely induced by alcohol), and a build-up of acetaldehyde, a toxic substance which is more prevalent in your body when alcohol is consumed.

Dealing with Hangover Anxiety

As shown, there are many reasons as to why you may feel anxiety after drinking alcohol. However, the good news is that there are also a number of ways that these symptoms can be treated and prevented. Below are some tips to help you deal with the problems listed above:

  • If you are feeling hangover depression, it can help if you try to think positively or spend time with a friend who can cheer you up! Otherwise, doing something like watching a funny movie may help you feel better.
  • To combat the memory lapses that come with rapid alcohol consumption, drinking a glass of water between alcoholic beverages will prevent your blood alcohol content from rising too sharply, in turn keeping your brain functioning properly.
  • Drinking water whilst drinking alcohol will also prevent you from becoming too dehydrated. If this sounds like too much liquid for you at once, you can alternatively have a few big glasses of water before you go to sleep to ensure that you don’t feel dehydrated the following morning.
  • Headaches can also be prevented by making sure that you are properly hydrated. While the main means of preventing hangover nausea is by drinking less alcohol, a natural plant extract found in the Holvenia Dulcis plant has been shown to reduce the amount of acetaldehyde that alcohol produces in your body, making you feel less nauseous.