What is hangxiety and how to ease it? Decoding anxiety symptoms after a night of drinking | Health

While the after-effects of drinking alcohol are well-known, its impact on the mind is a lesser discussed topic. Hangxiety, is the term that describes psychological symptoms after a night of drinking that often accompany the physical ones like fatigue, headache, nausea, weakness et al. Alcohol can impact neurotransmitters in the brain that at first works towards reducing tension and anxiety but as its effect wears off it leads to increase in anxiety and a feeling of impending doom. If you too wake up with unexplained anxiety after a session of heavy drinking, you could blame it to hangxiety that is at times hard to fight. (Also read | Holi 2024: How to get over Bhang hangover; expert tips inside)

Dr Chandni explains how hangxiety can be prolonged for chronic drinkers leading to a cycle of addiction.(Freepik)

What is hangxiety?

Hangxiety refers to the combination of anxiety and physical symptoms that occur after consuming alcohol.

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“The sensation of shame and embarrassment that leads to this anxiety is sometimes attributed to the previous night’s drinking, but there is also a physiological component to it. This anxiousness is known as ‘hangxiety.’ While it can be an unfavourable outcome of regret combined with embarrassing behaviour when inebriated, also has a physiological component,” says Dr Chandni Tugnait is M.D. (Alternative Medicines), Psychotherapist, Life Coach, Business Coach, NLP Expert, Healer, Founder & Director – Gateway of Healing.

“We’ve all been there: waking up from a night of overindulgence with a pounding headache, an upset stomach, and an overwhelming sense of regret. But what about that pit of dread and impending doom that descends upon you when the hangover fog clears? That persistent, uneasy sensation of disquiet is referred to as “hangxiety” – the terrible psychological hangover to the physical hangover,” adds Dr Chandni

How alcohol affects your brain

Dr Chandni explains how hangxiety can be prolonged for chronic drinkers leading to a cycle of addiction.

“Alcohol can influence neurotransmitters in the brain, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps to reduce tension and anxiety. However, alcohol’s interaction with GABA causes its transient depletion, which results in increased anxiety as its effects wear off. Similarly, alcohol affects glutamate, another neurotransmitter, causing an excess of glutamate after drinking, which contributes to increased anxiety,” says the expert.

“It’s easy to say that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption to avoid hangxiety. Hangxiety may pass for infrequent drinkers the next day. Still, chronic drinkers may experience prolonged hangxiety due to disruptions in the GABA-glutamate system, as well as withdrawal symptoms and sleep difficulties. To overcome such symptoms, you think, ‘I need a drink,’ which can further lead to a cycle of addiction,” she adds.

How to manage hangxiety

Managing hangxiety requires both proactive efforts to prevent it and reactive techniques to deal with it when it occurs.

Here are some ways to consider as suggested by Dr Chandni.

1. Prevention through mindful drinking: The apparent solution is to avoid binge drinking entirely by setting realistic boundaries, remaining hydrated, and nourishing yourself with good meals while drinking. Being self-aware of the effects of alcohol and understanding your own specific thresholds will help you avoid hangxiety before it begins.

2. Prioritise replenishment: When you wake up with hangover symptoms, fight the impulse to lie in bed wallowing. Get up and start your body’s recovery by drinking water or electrolyte-rich beverages, eating nutrient-dense foods, and taking a vitamin B complex to replenish depleted stores.

3. Deploy anxiety antidotes: Proven anxiety-relieving techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, mild exercise, and calming aromatherapies can help alleviate hangxiety’s persistent mental stress. Bach Flower Remedies, such as the “Rescue Remedy” blend, are also very powerful natural anti-anxiety treatments.

4. Resist the hair of the dog temptations: As appealing as it may appear, drinking another drink will just prolong and exacerbate the hangxiety cycle in the long term. This unproductive short cure delivers temporary relief but ultimately prepares you for a more difficult anxiety relapse.

5. Seek professional help: If you have hangxiety on a regular basis or to a severe degree, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health expert or join a support group. Chronic hangover anxiety may indicate an underlying issue requiring medical attention.

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