If you experience anxiety after drinking, you may be one of the many individuals that experience unpleasant symptoms in addition to feeling hung over. While hangovers can be very uncomfortable, adding anxiety after drinking can make some people feel embarrassed, self-conscious, and scared about what happened when they were drinking.
Many individuals that suffer from anxiety may find that drinking intensifies their symptoms the day after they consume large amounts of alcohol. It's also very common for those who don’t live with anxiety to experience anxiety after drinking, and there is a physiological reason for this feeling.
What Is A Hangover?
Hangovers are a combination of several unpleasant symptoms that result when someone drinks too much alcohol. A hangover can last anywhere from a few hours to more than 24 hours and can vary widely from one person to another.
Some hangovers can develop in as little as a few hours, but how quickly they begin and how long they last can vary based on several factors. Some individuals are quick to feel a hangover even after only a couple of drinks, while others will be able to consume rather large amounts of alcohol before experiencing a hangover.
A hangover typically starts when you consume too much alcohol, and your blood alcohol content drops as your body filters your blood. A significant drop in blood alcohol levels is typically what triggers a hangover, but even slight changes can trigger one as well.
The symptoms of a hangover can vary, but they generally include at least some of the items on this list:
Other symptoms include changes in your mood, which include depression and irritability in addition to feelings of anxiety. You may also experience shaking that you cannot control, difficulty sleeping, and concentrating may become harder.
In some cases, individuals may also have a faster than normal heartbeat, they may feel weak, or they could experience muscle aches that can be quite painful. Most of the time, these symptoms will go away on their own as you consume fluids and rest, but consistent and heavy drinking may lead to more severe hangovers.
Anxiety the Day After Drinking
Anxiety can occur at any time during our lives, but many individuals find that their anxiety peaks or appears after a night out drinking. This feeling is because alcohol may initially seem like an excellent way to relax, but the substance can bond with receptors in your brain to give you a false sense of relaxation.
When the alcohol wears off individuals may find that their feelings of anxiety are worse than before they drank, which is called the rebound effect. Part of managing anxiety is maintaining some kind of control over your cycle of anxiety and consuming alcohol may seem like a good idea at first, but ultimately has consequences that can significantly disrupt how you feel the day after.
The effect of your anxiety levels going up and down as you drink, and alcohol leaves your system, can have an impact on other parts of your health as well. The anxiety levels you feel can disrupt your sleep cycle, cause sleep deprivation, and even cause you to lose control over your feelings of anxiety.
If you currently live with anxiety or if you are taking medications that react poorly with alcohol, it's in your best interest to avoid drinking without first consulting your healthcare professional.
Who Is More Likely to Experience Anxiety?
If you already experience feelings of anxiety or take medication for your anxiety, then you are much more likely to have increased anxious feelings after drinking. This feeling occurs because alcohol may initially dull your senses and make you feel more at ease, but once the alcohol leaves your system, your body overcompensates.
This reaction that comes when you sober up is more than just natural hangover symptoms and feelings of anxiety when also feeling hungover can be tough to control. If you consistently feel anxious after a night of drinking, you may want to consider consuming less or no alcohol.
If you think you may have a drinking problem, it's also highly recommended that you get treatment as soon as possible as prolonged drinking can lead to increased levels of anxiety. Modern treatments for alcohol use now includes more than just abstinence and attending meetings.
Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, motivational interviewing, and in some cases, FDA approved medications. These medications may be part of both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs in your area and are often coupled with therapy administered by a certified professional.
Using alcohol as a medication to lessen undesirable feelings is often a clear sign that an alcohol disorder is present. This behavior puts you at a higher risk for many health problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption and drinking over an extended period can also cultivate an anxiety disorder even if one was not present previously.
How to Treat A Hangover
There are many different methods for treating a hangover, and some of them are based in science while others are old wives tales.
Hair of the Dog
There is some science to suggest that drinking a small amount to ease a hangover, or "the hair of the dog" as it's called, can help to alleviate alcohol withdrawal and provide a light sedative effect.
This method may not work for everyone, and some individuals will find the thought of drinking more alcohol when hungover repulsive, but the brain will likely react favorably, and it may help reduce your symptoms, mainly if you are very hungover.
It's also worth noting that drinking when hungover does tend to prolong the after-effects of alcohol and doesn't help you to recover more quickly. A small amount of alcohol could help to ease unpleasant symptoms, but it won't shorten the duration of those symptoms necessarily.
Fluids and Food
Drinking plenty of fluids when you’re hungover will help your body replenish what was lost when you were drinking and can help lessen headaches and other body aches that occur when you become dehydrated.
Consuming alcohol causes you to need to urinate more often as alcohol is a diuretic, which means it removes water from your body. When you are hungover, you may also experience signs of dehydration caused by sweating, vomiting, and even diarrhea. You'll want to make sure and consume fluids other than water to ensure you get sufficient electrolytes.
If you aren't able to drink a lot of fluids, try to focus on sips of water and bland foods. A small amount of carbohydrates can help bring up blood sugar levels that can dip when you drink. It's also a good idea to give yourself some carbohydrates so that your brain and body have the fuel they need to recover.
If your stomach is feeling sensitive, consider eating foods like toast, diluted juices, rice, and bananas if you feel up to it. Coffee and tea are another type of fluids that you can drink as their stimulating characteristics may help you feel more alert and less tired. It's important to note that coffee can also be a diuretic so you should also drink plenty of water.
There was a study published about 30 years ago that stated that taking Vitamin B6 at any time before, during, or after drinking could help reduce the number of hangover symptoms an individual would experience.
This study has not been replicated since it was published, but taking Vitamin B6 doesn’t hurt if you find it helpful. There are also other vitamins and supplements on the market that claim to help prevent hangovers, but many of these claims are not evaluated by the FDA and should be used with caution.
Pain Relievers That Aren’t Tylenol
Tylenol can be toxic to your liver if there is still alcohol in your system, but there are plenty of other pain relievers to utilize. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help with headaches, and other body aches common with hangovers, but they may irritate your stomach if it's already feeling sensitive.
To reduce the feeling of sensitivity, try eating small amounts of food along with a dose of NSAIDs. Aspirin and ibuprofen are excellent choices when it comes to pain relievers, but be sure to follow dosing information carefully and be sure that your stomach is ready for food before swallowing a dose.
Avoid Dark Alcohol
Some studies have found that clear liquors are less likely to cause a hangover than brown liquors and other dark or colored alcoholic beverages. This difference is because dark liquors contain other compounds in addition to ethanol that can make your hangovers worse.
Darker alcohols contain particularly toxic methanol, and although the same enzymes process both methanol and ethanol in your body, it's the toxicity that can make your hangover worse. Examples of darker alcohols include red wine, whiskey, and some types of tequila. Vodka and gin are good examples of clear liquors that may result in more mild hangovers.