What is ‘hangxiety’? How to avoid ‘beer fear’ this Christmas

What is ‘hangxiety’? How to avoid ‘beer fear’ this Christmas

12/18/2021

Dr Philippa shares tips for preventing hangovers

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Are you familiar with ‘hangxiety’ – the combination of a hangover and anxiety after a night out on the pints? Also known as ‘beer fear’, these nicknames are given to that sinking feeling you might get about what happened the night before. So, what causes hangxiety, and how can you prevent it?

Everyone knows you risk waking up with a sore head the morning after a Christmas party or New Year’s bash.

But in addition to the classic combination of a thumping headache and a sensitive stomach, some will experience acute ‘hangxiety’.

Hangxiety includes feeling of self-loathing, fear about what you may have done or said the night before, and stress about half-imagined scenarios.

However, hangxiety isn’t an entirely rational response to losing your inhibitions the night before.

Andrew Misell, director for Wales at Alcohol Change UK, said: “There are few reasons you might feel anxious after an evening’s drinking.

“You’re likely to be dehydrated and tired: alcohol will get you off to sleep but it keeps you from getting much deep sleep.

“Plus, your body will be busy flooding your brain with chemicals to counteract the alcohol, and that can do strange things to your mood.

“You may remember doing or saying one or two things you regret. Or you may have gaps in your memory that you’re anxiously trying to fill.”

Research shows these feelings of guilt and shame after drinking can be caused by the chemical changes taking place in your brain after a night of boozing.

Many people use alcohol as a social crutch, relying on it to calm their nerves and get them feeling loose and relaxed or an evening of socialising.

The reason alcohol has this capability is it calms your brain, slowing down the rate at which your nerve cells respond.

After one or two drinks you can feel rather relaxed, but after three, four or any more, your brain starts blocking a transmitter called glutamate.

Without glutamate, you’ll be feeling calm as a cucumber. However, as your body begins to notice the discrepancy in your usual balance, it sets about trying to get things back to normal.

In order to do this, it tries to produce even more glutamate, and even trigger an adrenaline response, to get you firing on all cylinders again.

However, for many people, this just feels like being hit with a huge dose of anxiety.

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It can even wake you up from your much needed slumber, in a state of hormonally-induced panic.

As your brain tries to rationalise those feelings of panic, it may well look for a cause, and attribute your feelings of anxiety to your behaviour the night before, although this may not be the case at all.

So, how can you avoid waking up with hangxiety the morning after a night out?

Andrew Misell said: “Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for all of this. The only thing that will bring you back to some kind of normality is the passage of time.

“But of course the best way to avoid hangxiety, or hangovers in general, is to moderate your drinking.”

Try drinking less overall, or choosing lower-alcohol options for your drinks.

If you miss the feeling of having a drink in hand, have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink; this might have you running to the bathroom more often, but will also help stave off dehydration.

However if you frequently feel guilty or ashamed about the amount you drink, and the effect it has on your behaviour, it may be time to take a look at your relationship with alcohol.

Alcohol Change UK has lots of advice on its website if you’re worried about your drinking and would like to cut down.

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