Alcohol Anxiety

It’s the dreaded Friday morning. You wake hungover. You’ve had plenty of practice all first semester so you know the drill: a headache from hell, the desert mouth and feathery breath; the sucker punch of nausea as you taste that last jaeger bomb that seemed like a good idea at the time.

However, if you also wake with a racing pulse, tight chest, breathlessness and intense feelings of panic, you are likely included in the 10% of hangover victims that also suffer “hangover anxiety” after a night of binge drinking. 1

So what ever happened to TGIF?

‘Hangover anxiety’ is the occurrence of typical symptoms of anxiety that arise after a night or extended period (months or years) of binge drinking. We’re talking more than the sober regret when reminded of your not-so-subtle hookup at Acadz. If your regret is accompanied by paranoia, social isolation or induces a panic attack, it is a sign that alcohol is affecting more than just your physical health.

Feelings of anxiety and depression are unrecognised but common side effects of binge drinking. While here in Australia 80% of alcohol consumed by 18-30 year olds is in unhealthy quantities,2 this excessive consumption can disrupt the balance of chemicals and nutrients in the brain and body and prove more detrimental than alcohols’ signature headache.

According to the journal of Alcohol and Alcoholism, a study of 1400 hungover Dutch students aged 18-30 found 8% suffered anxiety over the duration of a hangover.3  Additionally, more than a third reported disorientation and half reported feeling agitated over the subsequent day.

While hangover anxiety is more likely to affect those with a predisposition to these emotions, the main issue is that most sufferers are firstly; unaware that alcohol continues to affect the brain after it has left the body, secondly; less likely to notice their anxiety is a product of prior binge drinking and lastly; don’t realise their symptoms are severe until they become debilitating.

If you find your anxiety and depression are consistent with binge-drinking it’s probably time you go cold-turkey or cut back to relieve the severity of your symptoms.

But what should you do if you are currently experiencing hangover anxiety and reading this? Focus on your breathing and aim to remain calm until feelings of panic subside. Avoid caffeine and nicotine and replenish your body with foods that stabalise your blood sugar and most importantly, seek help from friends, peers, family or ANU medical center if you know alcohol is affecting your well-being.

Once recognised, alcohol-induced anxiety is easily eliminated and will ensure you enjoy every night out without enduring the hangover equivalent of hell.

You’ll forget spending the day sweating under bed sheets in the foetal position, binging on TV shows and dry-retching after a mouthful of Listerine that seemed like a good idea at the time.

But hey, doesn’t everything?

 

 

  1A. McKinney, K. Coyle, “Alcohol hangover effects on measures of affect the morning after a normal nights drinking,” Alcohol and Alcoholism 41, no. 1 (January/February 2006): 54-60.
 
   2Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010. Drinking patterns in Australia, 2001-2007. 
Cat. no. PHE 133. Canberra: AIHW.
 
  3R. Penning, A. McKinney, JC. Verster, “Alcohol Hangover Symptoms and Their Contribution to the Overall Hangover Severity,” Alcohol and Alcoholism 47, no. 3 (May/June 2012): 248-252.