The Real Reason You Might Have Hangxiety

Hangxiety can rear its ugly head after a big night of drinking. Those feelings of guilt and anxiety just creep in and hang over your head, threatening your brain with a flood of negative feelings and self-flagellation. A hungover morning coupled with physical distress can build high anxiety. Hangxiety is not a professional term, but it is a very real feeling for many people who wake up after a night of drinking and feel distressed.

Why it Happens

Agitation after a night of drinking is not uncommon. More people experience negative emotions including confusion, guilt, and regret which leads to high levels of anxiety. Fatigue, thirst, drowsiness, and a headache do not help the feeling that an alcohol-fueled night (again) ruined another day as you wrestle with how to get up and function. Anxiety, guilt, and regret can be related to biological effects of alcohol including embarrassment and drunk-dialing or texting. Higher levels of anxiety may be present for people who experience hangxiety regardless of whether they drink or not, which can lead to a co-occurring disorder (alcoholism and anxiety occurring at the same time, one perhaps fueling the other).


Hangxiety plays a role in a bigger issue of experiencing a sort of mini-withdrawal from alcohol the day after drinking too much. Some people may feel achy or have an upset stomach but anxiety can rear its head all day, disrupting normal functioning. Alcohol increases dopamine and drinking itself can change moods and feelings. Panic, depression, impulsive behavior and other feelings can rear their ugly heads under the influence of alcohol. Some other things that happen:

  • Increases effects related to GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid)
  • Slows energy levels
  • Feelings of relaxation increase

For people with a pre-existing anxiety disorder, even a small one, it may come back full force or even worse with hangxiety. The rebound effect can impact sleep cycle, which will have a negative effect on managing anxiety. REM sleep is diminished which is part of the normal sleep cycle. Disruption of this can make a person feel unrested, restless, and may increase anxiety.

Signs of Abuse

The DSM-5 lists 11 criteria which can lead to a diagnosi sof alcohol use disorder (AUD); this is defined as ‘problem drinking which becomes severe.’ One of the criteria is continuing to drink even though it made you feel depressed or anxious. A red flag that alcohol use may have become alcohol abuse includes self-medicating anxiety with alcohol. When a person drinks to fix a problem the drinking itself caused (such as anxiety) then it can move into challenging territory such as alcohol use disorder. There is help available for people who struggle and want treatment for both anxiety and alcohol abuse issues so long as they recognize it is a problem and seek help.

Sound Recovery focuses on your needs. Whether it’s dual diagnosis for anxiety and alcohol use disorder, one or the other, or some other issue, we are here to help. Your needs matter to us and our programs and services are designed to help set you on the path to success for the long haul. Call us to find out how we can help you get started: 561-277-3088.

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