Hangxiety: What is it and why you should care

How needing a drink can lead to anxiety this festive season

We’ve all been there. A great night out, filled with zero inhibitions and feeling invincible. But the day after the night before rolls in at some point.

And that’s when it starts.

Forget about the crippling hangover, we’re talking about hangxiety.

“What did I say last night?”

“What happened last night?”

“I can’t remember?”

“Did I offend anyone?”

“No one’s text me yet – are they being off with me?”

The feeling of regret and worry after a night out is part of a scientific phenomenon called alcohol anxiety – or hangxiety. Once dismissed as paranoia, hangxiety is a chemical imbalance in the brain induced by drinking.

 Alcohol inhibits nerve cell activity propelling you into a state of calm at the same time as blocking glutamate, a chemical that is associated with anxiety. These carefree feelings, however, don’t last long. Once the alcohol wears off, your body tries to rectify the natural imbalance in the brain by overproducing glutamate, causing heightened feelings of anxiety.

In actuality, using alcohol to deal with social phobia has an adverse effect and heightens feelings of anxiety. As we awaken from a deep slumber, the hangover hits and our body goes into alcohol withdrawal (similar to people who have a dependency) and spend the day worrying and feeling stressed out.

It’s no secret that alcohol lowers our inhibitions and reduces stress levels. Those who suffer from generalised anxiety disorders (GAD) and social phobias are more prone to using alcohol to steady their nerves. In today’s world, ‘I need a drink’ is synonymous with dealing with stress and social anxiety.

This year’s theme for Alcohol Awareness Week is all about alcohol and how it affects our relationships. The detrimental effect heavy alcohol use can have on our relationships is well documented and undeniable. What we need to consider is how the moderate and social drinkers among us approach our social lives, the people around us and the festive season.

Around this time of year, there is a lot of ‘sober shaming’, creating a catalyst for over-consumption. The old adage of “everything in moderation” is particularly important at this time of year. Social calendars are getting fuller and Christmas drinks seem to be the reason for any gathering. Creating interactions over the next few weeks that don’t rely on drinking as the main element but, for instance, competitive socialising, takes the focus away from consumption and more towards participation.

hasta’s CEO David Lawlor knows first-hand the effects a party lifestyle can have, “It’s tempting to always round off a stressful day with a drink, but it can become a slippery slope. Too much of a good thing can have disastrous consequences. Creating environments for employee socialising that do not centre around alcohol is essential for wellbeing. We assume having one or two swift ones contributes positively to our wellbeing, when in reality, it can increase anxiety and create dependency. There needs to be more normalised methods of dealing with stress and anxiety at the end of the working day such as after work mediation or yoga.”