‘Hangxiety’ or how NOT to start 2020!

 

Hello dear readers of my blog. Today is almost the very last day of 2019 and we are ready (or not) to jump into a new decade. 2020. First of all I wish you all the very best for the New Year and of course a lot of blogging fun!

 

Secondly, on a more serious note, some of us are going to party tomorrow evening. Possibly with some glasses of champagne or other drinks that contain alcohol. All is fun and games until you drink that one (?) glass too many. In order not to meet the New Decade with hangxiety, I’ll leave you with some insights on the matter.

 

Disco sketch banners set
New Years Eve Party

 

What is hangxiety?

 

It is how it sounds; the phenomenon of feeling anxious while hungover. When you try to open your eyes after a long but suspicious night filled with some glasses of wine or beer or maybe stronger liquor, some vague memories are sliding into your brain. Your brain though is not really functional. What did you do? Where are you? Where are your shoes and what pictures are there on your phone? That kind of questions play in your mind while you’re feeling hungry and thirsty. Not being able to jump freshly out of bed or sofa or I don’t know, and to go for a run or walk, you are stuck with your existence. Sounds fun?

 

Hangxiety is driven by brain chemistry.

Alcohol can make you feel calmer and make you lose up a little. At least you think or feel so. The calming part comes from alcohol’s effect on GABA and glutamate, neurotransmitters that, respectively, slow things down and amp things up. Alcohol increases the effects of GABA, suppresses the effects of glutamate, and, long story short, inhibits our inhibitions, which is why we can feel free at last to dance on the table while impersonating a cancan girl.

The good mood comes from an increase of dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, the neurotransmitters of the reward system. But the morning after, all needs to balance out and that comes with a vengeance.

Specific to hangxiety, the morning after the calming effects of suppressing glutamate and increasing GABA, the opposite effect occurs. Anxiety-like symptoms such as an elevated heart rate, sweating, feeling shaky, and nausea, not to mention simply feeling restless and worried, all hit like the wrecking ball that is now inside your skull.

This is not exclusive to humans, mice experience it too[1]. Mice were injected with or alcohol or a non-alcoholic solution. A few hours later, compared to their sober friends, the hungover mice spent more time hiding in dark corners of a maze and less time exploring a new box, both behavioral indicators of increased anxiety and fear.

 

Hangxiety is also psychological.

First of all our brain interprets symptoms of a hangover as anxiety. Trembling, pounding heartbeat and a headache can occur with anxiety but these are here the consequence of too much alcohol consumption. The brain is misled to think that when symptoms of a thread occur, there must be something to worry about.

Some things we do remember, bring us shame, like flirting with the waiter or losing our keys. When we experience black-out due to drinking too much, that can drive our anxiety through the roof. Because then our questions become more vague and our possible answers even more catastrophic. We don’t have a set of events and a timeline to hold on too.

 

Hangxiety is worse for people who are more shy or more socially anxious.

In addition to the brain chemistry rebound, shy people very often replay in their heads the events from the night before and ruminate on things they might have said or done that they perceive to be embarrassing. Psychologists call this post-event processing, and it’s what’s happening when we say things like “Why did I say that? That was so stupid,” “I made a total fool of myself,” or “Who is this?”

 

Hangxiety can be linked to problems with alcohol.

In an interesting twist, people who are shy or socially anxious generally consume less alcohol than people who are more outgoing, but have higher levels of hazardous drinking and related negative consequences, like missing work or getting injured.

People who are shy may enjoy social events less and avoid them more. Therefore, they may have less practice pacing themselves or knowing their limits when they self-medicate at a party, wedding reception, or night out. They overdo it because the situation at hand is more stressful to them.

 

The best strategy is prevention.

People with social anxiety were asked to attend an event without drinking and to report on their anxiety levels. It showed that people entered the event with the most high levels of anxiety but that those levels decreased when the event unfolded.

 

The trick would be to focus on the people around you and not on your thoughts in the moment.

 

All in all, raise a glass on the New Year because you want to, not because you feel you have to. Your anxiety will thank you in the morning.

 

 

 

References.

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23850352-alterations-in-affective-behavior-during-the-time-course-of-alcohol-hangover/

Online article click here.

Picture credits click here.Background vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

 

25 thoughts on “‘Hangxiety’ or how NOT to start 2020!

    1. Hmmm that’s one way to not deal with the problem, just focus on the other problem 🙂 I hate the nausea but I also have those weird uneasy thoughts. I haven’t been drunk for years now, I rarely drink and not too much. So that is right in the danger zone when I may happen!

      Liked by 3 people

    1. The last! As Jesus finished his 10th year living in the 10th year of our Roman calendar. And 0 is the beginning of the first year and I still think we end a decade and I hope for a better one for me. I’m not willing to wait another year to start that! So I use my own method of counting 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hahaha, you must’ve been writing as I was reading ur post! I would agree that 0 == first. In the C computer language (which exists standalone, but which also has many computer-language descendants), a[0] refers to the very first element of array a. All counting begins at zero. But that is not true across the board, where counting might sometimes begin at 1. Look at Excel, for example, and the very top row is called one, not zero.
      I have a serious question, btw. If we are able to “explain” drunkenness in terms of chemicals (okay, approximately). And hangovers, ditto… are we able to explain the various hangover “cures”, also in terms of chemicals? Do they restore some kind of balance? Okay, in asking that, I realise that cures are mainly anecdotal, but I was just wondering, all the same?
      And, if the main thing you need to worry about after a night out is losing your key, you’re not doing badly 😆.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think you can magically or with another drink restore the balance. The lesson would be that losing balance is always painful. Falling of your bike, losing mental balance or having your heart broken, it all hurts. I even think that when we are dreaming it is because the chemicals are restoring itself in the brain. I would either way play it safe, sweat it out and learn from it 🙂 The question arises why in the first place we ‘need’ to escape our life or mind itself by drinking or doing other things. Humans are so strange!!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm classic case of doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. To each his (?) own. Almost everything can be good in moderation I think but it’s not always a fit. Some people can drink and others don’t. I’m not tempted to drink at all because my mind is in a difficult state enough on its own. You’re right that it can add problems and that’s no way to start the New Year!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Happy New Year 😊 I’m not drinking tonight so will wake up with a clear head but this post rings some bells for me. I think hangxiety is why I’m not drinking on New Years anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 🙂 It’s already tonight for you and I’m off to bed to get the last good (I hope) night sleep before a modest party for the New Year! I’ll keep it moderate as we have a big family dinner on the 1st.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so interesting to learn about the chemical processes behind these experiences! Also, thanks for the warning that anxious people often get stronger hangxiety. 😊 It makes sense, considering I already spend a lot of time post-event processing even without a hangover. Still, it’s good to know it’s been scientifically measured and isn’t just a slippery slope expectation generated by my anxious brain.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it makes it a bit more normal and I do it to that post-event processing and it’s such a source of anxiety without a drop of alcohol. I just feel bad for the mice they used in the experiment, poor things, not exploring and hiding in the corner. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve definitely experienced hangxiety in my life and it’s one of the worst feelings! Thanks for sharing this information, I find it so interesting reading all the science behind these kind of things.
    Happy new year!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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