Anyone who has overindulged in drinking can tell you about the unpleasant symptoms of a hangover the following morning. Along with the physical symptoms, some people also experience some psychological symptoms, too. When these spin out of control, they are commonly called “hangxiety,” and researchers have recently discovered that some people are more likely to be affected in the hours after overindulging in alcohol.
Let’s unravel these ideas one by one.
Physical Symptoms of a Hangover
The severity of these symptoms will vary, depending on the person, the amount of alcohol consumed and the time spent drinking. Generally speaking, someone with a hangover can expect to experience some, or all, of the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Psychological Symptoms Associated with a Hangover
While experiencing a hangover, a person may start to review his actions of the night before. Alcohol has a tendency to loosen tongues and inhibitions, and people can end up saying or doing things that in the light of day, may not seem like such a good idea. As he goes over everything he remembers, he may start to have some concerns about things he said or did.
Some people can shake off their words or actions at this point, hoping that anyone else who was present was also in a state where their memory is also a bit fuzzy around details. They may just be the type of person who can pick up and decide that today is a new day and move on.
Others, particularly those who are shy, find it harder to just shake off the previous evening’s events. They are more likely to examine their actions in detail from the night before (“Why did I say that?” or “That comment made me look dumb/silly/uneducated, etc.”), as well as start examining other previous events. Before they know it, they have slipped into a state of “hangxiety.”
What Is Hangxiety?
The simplest explanation for hangxiety is a rise in anxiety levels during a hangover. Why do some people find that they become more anxious when they are recovering from a night of drinking, while others can focus more on their physical symptoms?
The answer may lie partly with the drinker’s personality. The results of a study conducted by researchers at University College London found that people who are introverted or shy are more likely to experience it.
UK Researchers Studied Hangxiety
The researchers worked with a group of 97 participants. First, the researchers asked them questions about their shyness and phobias. Next, some of the participants were asked to drink alcohol, while a control group were asked to abstain.
The researchers took note of the drinkers’ anxiety levels when they experienced a hangover the following day. They found that the participants who described themselves as being shy also reported higher anxiety levels.
Are You at Risk for Hangxiety?
Your risk of developing hangxiety increases if you already experience social anxiety. This means you’re already more likely to go over social events in your mind after the fact. Since you’re already wired to look for signs where you haven’t performed well, you’re going to over analyze everything about your social encounter.
When alcohol is added into the mix, it may trip up your memory of what transpired. Particularly if you drank heavily, you can’t always trust that what you remember is accurate, or what took place at all. (Since your default is to go to the negative, you may be getting anxious over something that didn’t occur.)
Feeling down can lead to a cycle of more drinking to try to deal with the anxiety and depression stemming from the social anxiety. This cycle can only make the hangxiety worse over time. A better option is to deal with the social anxiety and the alcohol use by getting professional help.
If you’re concerned about your drinking or haven’t been able to stop drinking on your own, contact us. Our residential programs offer a full continuum of care, from detoxification to community support.