Hangxiety: what is it, symptoms, how long does it last and how to manage it?
Hangovers are no longer just about the awful physical effects – now there are psychological problems to contend with as well
By Rhona Shennan
May 22, 2023
After a big night of drinking, a hangover is something that is to be expected amongst most of us (apart from the seemingly lucky few who manage to avoid it), but in recent years it’s not just the physical symptoms of a hangover that we have to worry about any more, it’s the psychological effects as well.
Affectionately termed “hangxiety” amongst those who experience it, the definition of the portmanteau of “hangover” and “anxiety” is pretty much what you would expect – it refers to a special feeling of anxiety that you feel when you’re hungover.
This is everything you need to know about hanxiety, and how you can treat it.
What causes ‘hanxiety’ – what are the symptoms?
There are a number of reasons that hangxiety can occur, with Drinkaware, an independent charity which strives to reduce alcohol-related harm, offering up the following of explanations:
- For starters, alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it “causes chemical changes in your brain that might make you feel calmer and more relaxed at first”, but when you stop drinking and those effects start to wear off, it can heighten feelings of anxiety
- The usual effects of a hangover, like being dehydrated, having disturbed sleep and low sugar levels, can all contribute to feelings of anxiety
- Alcohol often lowers our inhibitions as well, meaning that we often say or do things we might later regret which leads to feeling anxious about things you may have done or said the night before
How long does it last and can you treat it?
Usually hangxiety lasts around as long as your hangover lasts, with symptoms being the more severe the day after you’ve been drinking as your blood alcohol level returns to zero.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation suggests the following ways you can treat your hangxiety:
- Get hydrated by drinking water or something with electrolytes if you have it
- Eat something, even if you don’t really feel hungry, as this will help your body recover from the night before
- Take it easy and get lots of rest
- Distract yourself with something like your favourite show or movie, specifically something you find relaxing
- Avoid stimulant drugs, such as caffeine, as these tend to increase feelings of anxiety
- Reach out to some friends
Can you prevent hangxiety from happening?
The only 100% effective way to avoid experiencing hangxiety is by not drinking alcoholic drinks. However, there are some things you can do to reduce the severity of your potential hangxiety, such as:
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink you have
- Don’t drink too quickly – as a general rule of thumb, try to stick to just one drink an hour
- Set yourself a drinks limit so you don’t end up accidentally overdoing it
Help for alcohol related issues
If you’re concerned about your own, or someone you love, relationship with alcohol, there are lots of places that you can turn to for help, including:
- Drinkline, which is a national alcohol helpline that you can call for free between 9am and 8pm on weekdays and 11am and 4pm on weekends – 0300 123 1110
- Alcoholics Anonymous, which is a free self help group
- We Are With You, which is a UK-wide treatment agency which helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse
- The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, which is a free and confidential telephone and email helpful for children of alcoholics – 0800 358 3456
- SMART Recovery, which is a group that helps people identify if they have a problem and help them through recovery