Why Do I Have Anxiety After Drinking?
Updated November 01, 2018
Drinking too much too often can ruin your relationships and your health, as well as lead to overwhelming feelings of anxiety and guilt. If you need help to quit drinking, contact alicensed professional counselor at BetterHelp today.
You were the life and soul of the party last night. You knew you were drinking too much, but why stop when you're having such a good time? You even said that you'd pay for it in the morning, but you'd worry about that tomorrow, and you poured your sixth glass of wine.
The morning has come, and your own words prove to be true: you are paying the price for drinking too much.
You feel anxious and ashamed. You're filled with guilt and worry about what you said and what you did. You can't remember parts of the party - pieces are missing. You're embarrassed.
You feel like hell.
You have hangxiety. It's a real word. The Urban Dictionary defines it as: "The feeling of overwhelming guilt, stress, and worry the day after a drinking binge. Hang-over Anxiety. Hangxiety!"
Chemical Changes In The Brain That Cause Anxiety After Drinking
A rush of the feel-good hormone, dopamine, is released into the reward center of your brain when you drink alcohol. It's the same feeling that you get when you fall in love or win big at the casino; you feel great.
Unfortunately, an alcohol buzz doesn't last long. When you stop drinking,thedopamine level in your brain decreases and the mood hormone, serotonin, is suppressed. That's why you feel anxiety and guilt after drinking.
Having a glass of wine or a beer to relax after a bad day may reduce stress levels in the short term, but as the alcohol leaves the body, anxiety returns with a vengeance, which may lead to more drinking to keep the buzz going.
If you tend to be anxious or have an anxiety disorder, you are more likely to feel severe anxiety after drinking alcohol. It can also worsen your condition and should be avoided.
Physical Changes That Cause Anxiety After Drinking
Your physical well-being takes a hard knock after a night of heavy drinking; nausea, stomach-aches, and headaches are common. Your liver is working overtime to get rid of the toxins.
This in itself will lead to feelings of anxiety, but the hangover symptoms that are most responsible for severe anxiety after drinking are a rapid heartbeat, shakiness, and a sense of weakness. These are the physical effects of the alcohol leaving your body and will cause you to feel panicky, nervous, and anxious.
It also doesn't help that too much alcohol leads to poor quality sleep; you don't sleep well enough or long enough.
Anxiety After Binge Drinking
A blackout, or alcohol-induced amnesia, is most likely to happen during binge drinking. A blackout is different to passing out; passing out means that you're unconscious and not functioning at all.
A binge-drinking blackout isn't a loss of consciousness; it's a loss of memory. You talk and act, but you don't remember doing so.
You wake up in a stranger's bed without being able to remember their name or where you met them. You can't remember where you parked your car.
You remember bits and pieces of a conversation, but not how it ended. You have a flashback of an argument with your partner but can't remember what it was about and where your partner is now.
Someone posts a video of you on social media screaming abuse at a homeless person, but you have no memory of it.
Perhaps you know you were out of control, but you're not sure exactly how badly behaved you were. You don't know if your family and friends are furious with you because you can't remember if you were offensive, or maybe just downright stupid and embarrassing.
Is it any wonder that you feel intensely anxious and guilty after a binge-drinking blackout? Our anxiety levels rocket if we can't remember what we did and how we acted.
Binge drinking is on the rise the world over and across all age groups. Considering how awful one feels the next day, one can't help but wonder why.
Drinking, Withdrawal Symptoms, And Anxiety Disorder
A feeling of anxiety the day after drinking is not a sign of anxiety disorder, but people who suffer from generalized anxiety should avoid drinking alcohol because the feeling will be intensified and could worsen the condition.
Anxiety is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Drinking heavily and regularly has a long-term effect on the brain that causes a person to feel withdrawal continually, and that can develop into an anxiety or panic disorder.
Know When To Quit Drinking
A feeling of anxiety after drinking can happen once a year when you almost accidentally drink too much at the office Christmas party; it's not a symptom of a drinking or addiction problem that is a cause for worry.
But if you're suffering from anxiety every weekend, or more often, it's probably time to get help to stop drinking.
Anxiety After Quitting Drinking
You may have started drinking to cope with stress and anxiety and now find that you are dependent on alcohol and cannot do without it. Now, if you don't drink, your anxiety returns with a vengeance, so you pour another glass.
When you've been drinking heavily for an extended period, your body and brain have adapted to alcohol; when you stop drinking, neurons start to fire and cause a range of dreadful symptoms, including anxiety.
That awful feeling of anxiety after quitting drinking is the most common reason that people relapse and go back to alcohol dependency.
For years, drinking has numbed your feelings, and now your brain has lost the ability to cope with anxiety without alcohol. Drinking eases your anxiety without treating the underlying cause. It's like taking strong painkillers to dull the ache of a broken arm; the pain will go away, but the arm is still broken.
A feeling of anxiety after drinking is common even for people who are not dependent on alcohol and is a short-term day-after withdrawal symptom. But if you've been drinking heavily and regularly over a period, the long-term anxiety associated with quitting drinking is much more than just getting over the withdrawal stage.
That's why quitting drinking isn't as easy as just stopping; your brain needs to be retrained to deal with anxiety without using alcohol.
The following are some approaches that may be useful to cope with anxiety after quitting drinking:
Therapy And Counseling
It's difficult to learn to deal with anxiety if you don't know what's causing it. Working with a therapist to get to the root of the problem is the first critical step to recovery.
A support network is invaluable when you've quit drinking; there's a great comfort to be had in being with others who have overcome their alcohol dependency and moved on to healthier lives.
It's also essential to have someone that you're accountable to, and that you can call on when you're feeling anxious. This may be the one thing that will keep you from relapsing.
Replace Alcohol With A Healthy Anxiety Coping Mechanism
It takes practice to retrain your brain to cope with anxiety without numbing it with alcohol, but some activities can make it easier.
Playing sports and joining a gym will distract you from feeling anxious. Also, exercise releases dopamine and serotonin in the brain; exactly what alcohol does but with none of the harmful side effects.
Other excellent anxiety relievers are relaxation exercises like yoga, tai chi, and qigong.
Practice deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation.
Repeating a chant, prayer, or positive affirmation is a great way to retrain the brain. Saying something like "I have the power to choose" several times a day can be beneficial, but choose something that is meaningful and helpful to you.
Boredom is dangerous; this is when you're most likely to dwell on your anxiety which won't help you to cope with it. Boredom may also lead you to start drinking again if you feel you have nothing better to do.
Join a charity or a social group; keep your time and mind occupied with fun or useful things.
To state the obvious, the simplest way to avoid anxiety after drinking is not to drink.
However, there's nothing to worry about if your drinking is limited to an occasional night out on the town. You may feel anxious as your body gets rids of the toxins, embarrassed about your behavior if you remember what you said and did, and suffer crippling worry if you don't, but we're flawed human beings who can forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make on our life's journey.
Still, it's incredibly unpleasant to spend the day in a state of anxiety and guilt after drinking too much. This is when some of us say, "Never again!" and mean it.
But when you're drinking heavily and regularly to cope with anxiety, it's time to do something about it. Alcohol will worsen your anxiety until it's a full-blown disorder, and will not cure the underlying cause.
If you're suffering from anxiety, whether alcohol-related or not, contact one of our trained therapists at BetterHelp to discover the underlying cause and help you on the road to recovery.