27th Oct 2021
Enjoying a night out with good friends and a few drinks can make for a fun evening… but the hangover the next morning? That’s not so fun. If you enjoy a few booze-filled drinks, you’re probably aware of the usual physical symptoms of a hangover, but you might be less aware of the psychological symptoms that can occur too. Defined by anxiety, fear, and regret, these physological symptoms are so widely reported that this alcohol-fuelled phenomenon has even been given a name: hangxiety.
What is hangxiety?
‘Hangxiety’ - or ‘hangover anxiety’ - is that horrible, anxious feeling of dread sometimes experienced the morning after a night of drinking. It directly impacts your mood alongside physical hangover symptoms and, for some people, can be so debilitating that it’s enough reason to want to cut out booze entirely.
Hangxiety is essentially a state of recovery for the body and brain; your body works to heal physical hangover symptoms, while the brain works to heal chemical imbalances resulting in feelings of anxiety.
Main symptoms of hangxiety
The pounding headache, awful nausea and dizziness of a hangover’s physical symptoms are all too familiar to most people, but signs of hangxiety aren’t as well known. 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
What causes hangxiety?
Hangxiety occurs when the sedative effects of alcohol begin wearing off, causing withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by people dependent on alcohol. When drinking alcohol, normal brain functionality is disrupted, and an excess of “feel-good” chemicals (like endorphins) are released. As a result, the following day you often feel drained with a rapidly declining mood due to your body trying to maintain an appropriate state of homeostasis (a self-regulating biological process that adjusts itself to maintain an optimal condition for survival). Cortisol (the stress hormone) is also triggered during and after drinking alcohol, making you feel more anxious than usual. Although hormonal fluctuation plays a key role in hangxiety (and anxiety in general), some factors can increase your likelihood of experiencing hangxiety:
- Social anxiety and drinking to lessen stress during social events: once the effects of alcohol begin wearing off, you’re left with physical hangover symptoms that can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Alcohol detox: this can leave you feeling restless, anxious, and nervous.
- Dehydration or poor nutrition: A lack of hydration and other vital nutrients can be a source of anxiety and mood changes
- Exhaustion: sleep deprivation can increase the intensity of emotional states
Am I the only one experiencing this?
Fluctuating moods are a common symptom of a hangover, but hangxiety isn’t always experienced the same way. Hangover-related anxiety tends to be individualistic, varying from person to person. While the symptoms and severity fluctuate, you should know that you’re not alone.
A survey conducted on behalf of Lyre’s shared some insight into the pervasive, far-flung reaches of hangxiety. Many respondents shared their experiences with hangxiety and anguish at pubs and bars not effectively catering to drinkers desiring decent non-alcoholic alternatives to suit their physical and emotional needs.
74% of people surveyed reported being “barely or not at all satisfied” with non-alcoholic drinking options available in pubs and bars, yet 89% state that these alternatives were important to them. Many also shared that hospitality experiences when going alcohol-free haven’t always been the best, with 95% of respondents saying they were more likely to visit pubs and bars with good non-alcoholic options available.
“I was laughed at and judged by the bar person when asking what alcohol-free options they have. They asked, ‘what’s the point if there’s no booze in it?’”, shared one individual. “I was told the only options available were juice and fizzy drinks as if I were a child”, shared another.
Fortunately - with the increasing popularity of mindful drinking, rising awareness of the true extent of alcohol on the mind and body, and improvement in non-alcoholic alternatives available - some forward-thinking venues are realising the importance of catering to non-drinkers.
One respondent shared that “the best experience is when the bar staff says they can do anything alcoholic in a non-alcoholic version”, while another shared their delight in “being made a delicious alcohol-free Gin & Tonic in a proper glass with lime and cucumber” that helped them feel that they weren’t missing out on anything.
As more pubs and bars begin to introduce great alternatives to your favourite spirits, like Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits, these anecdotes will hopefully become the norm!
Ways to manage and reduce hangxiety
Unfortunately, there’s no hangxiety cure, but one of the best ways to manage and reduce hangxiety is to choose alcohol-free alternatives to your favourite drinks. At Lyre’s, our non-alcoholic range looks, tastes and sashays around the palate just like the original, so you can enjoy your favourite drink without worrying about hangxiety the following day.
Wondering how to prevent hangxiety? There are some steps you can take to help reduce hangxiety before it happens:
- Eat before drinking and never drink on an empty stomach
- Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated while you’re drinking - a 1:1 ratio should be maintained (1 alcohol drink per hour and 1 water per alcoholic drink)
- Set a limit and stick to it (i.e. two standard drinks maximum)
To manage hangxiety while you’re experiencing it, try:
- Rehydrate: drink lots of water and nutrient enhancing drinks
- Eat a light meal: eat a meal that’s easy to digest and avoid greasy, processed foods
- Get some rest: If you’re able to, get some sleep and give yourself a chance to relax
- Take some over-the-counter pain medication: This may help with physical symptoms
- Practice mindfulness: Meditation and slow-breathing exercises can help overcome symptoms of anxiety
- Go easy on yourself: Don’t be too hard on yourself and avoid overthinking your actions (you probably weren’t the only one drinking)
- Talk yourself through your worries: If you have trusted friends and family, it might help to talk to them too
- Try stress-relieving activities: activities like taking a bath, drawing, yoga, walking, and listening to calming music or meditation can help relieve your hangxiety.
In short, hangxiety is common; while not everyone will experience the same symptoms or severity every time, you’re not alone in your concerns, worries, and emotions. If you’re experiencing severe hangxiety, there’s a growing range of fantastic non-alcoholic alternatives you can try to enjoy a night out without the hangover!