It sounds made up – and while the word sort of is, the symptoms of hangxiety are very real! It can range from that ‘oh no’, beer-fear feeling you get after one too many drinks to severe psychological impacts. Alcohol consumption is particularly rampant among university students, with over 80% believing it’s part of university culture. But if you wake up the next morning with regret, worry, or any negative psychological symptoms – you may be suffering from hangxiety!

What is hangxiety?

Simply put, hangxiety refers to anxiety suffered as a result of drinking alcohol. It’s the physical symptoms of a hangover and the psychological symptoms of anxiety, combined for an unpleasant morning after. For this reason, it was commonly referred to as an ‘anxiety hangover’, however due to its prevalence ‘hangxiety’ now has its own term. The severity and frequency of hangxieties vary widely, with some studies suggesting that if you’re shy, or more prone to anxiety, you’re likely to experience more severe forms of hangxiety than others. A 2017 study also found that just under a quarter of 18-30 year olds reported anxiety when discussing hangover symptoms.

Is hangxiety the same as beer fear?

The two terms are used interchangeably, however, beer fear might, for some, reduce the seriousness of severe anxiety symptoms. Beer fear is often talked about when describing embarrassing and shameful things you did the night before. Falling over, dancing on bar tops or telling people what you really think are classics! But hangover anxiety, or hangxiety, might feel a little more than that. Anxiousness, paranoia, stress and depression can make the next morning very difficult for some.

What are the symptoms of hangxiety?

Hangxiety comes with a wide range of symptoms, encompassing both physical and psychological – although some symptoms are arguably overlapping.

Physical symptoms

  • Aching body
  • Thirst
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Flushed skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Faster breathing/heart rate
  • Shakiness

Psychological symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Stress
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Worry
  • Feeling a sense of impending doom
  • Nervousness
  • Panic

Why does hangxiety happen?

Medicine students…here we go!

Hangovers generally take their toll on the body. It disrupts hormones in your body – most of all serotonin and cortisol, which are responsible for your mood and stress levels. Alcohol sends a temporary surge in serotonin, which makes us feel great. But then when they come down, so does our mood. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is elevated when we suffer from the withdrawal of alcohol, which is why we are likely to feel irritable.

It also sends our brain on a journey, thanks to the way it impacts our GABA and glutamate neurotransmitters. Similarly to hormones, with alcohol, GABA can promote relaxed warm feelings that are then dramatically reduced afterwards. GABA can also hugely impact our brain function when it comes to stress, fear, anxiety and so on. Glutamate is another one that becomes more active with alcohol, impacting our nerves, memory and learning.

It’s no wonder hangxiety happens so frequently with all these hormones and neurotransmitters darting up and down! But there you have it. It’s important to remember that most of the research on the impacts of alcohol on our body function refers to excessive drinking i.e. getting plastered. But it’s worth doing your own research by searching medical journals on Google scholar or asking your mate studying medicine, science or related subjects.

How long does hangxiety last?

Unfortunately, there’s no one set time as it varies from person to person and how the body reacts to the amount of alcohol drank. Most guides generally say around a day – but it’s possible to experience symptoms of hangxiety weeks after.

Is there a hangxiety cure?

There’s no cure per se – or if you have one could you let us know? But there are ways that you can reduce some of the impacts related to hangxieties.

  • Water is your friend – water not only rehydrates to flush out the physical symptoms, but can also help balance those hormones.
  • Eat and nourish your body – we know it’s good to have a greasy fry-up, but there are other options for hangover-friendly meals.
  • Sleep, sleep and more sleep.
  • Aerobic exercises are another tool to try to sweat it out and generally bring down stress levels. Even walking can be effective.
  • Self-care. This is an important one for helping reduce some of the mental impacts. You could try meditating, breathing exercises, listening to an app, or doing something social – even if it’s just a phone call. If you’re really struggling, it’s worth seeking professional help from your university mental health advisor of GP. Alternatively, try contacting Student Minds or seek online help from Students Against Depression.

How to stop anxiety after drinking

Being a student who doesn’t drink can be challenging, particularly if your uni and flat mates are. But why not try taking some time out or a month off – you can find tips with our Dry January survival post. Or simply reduce the amount of alcohol you drink by understanding your individual tolerance levels.

Staying hydrated is key to preventing the symptoms of hangxiety – both physical and mental. A good way to do this is by alternating between alcoholic drinks and water consistently.

Another tool is to use mindfulness when you’re drinking. Not just drinking any old shot, but thinking about what you’re drinking and how many. It might not be as fun, but it prevents having to stop drinking altogether.