Some people enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer to unwind from daytime stress and anxiety. However, this relaxation method may actually make people feel worse in the long run.
In some cases, experts say, alcohol use can worsen feelings of anxiety, especially after a period of heavy drinking. The newly coined term ‘‘hangxiety’’ refers to the lingering feelings of anxiety and dread some people feel the morning after drinking, while they are experiencing other symptoms of a hangover.
Why does drinking intensify feelings of anxiety? It’s psychological. While drinking, the brain receives a dose of dopamine, a chemical in the brain’s reward center that lifts our moods. This temporary high crashes after the drinking ends, leading to feelings of withdrawal and hangover symptoms.
Alcohol also affects an important neurotransmitter called gamma aminobutyric [amino-BU-trick] acid, or GABA. When alcohol interacts with GABA receptors in the brain, it produces a calming, relaxed feeling. But when the alcohol wears off, people are more likely to feel intensified anxious feelings. These feelings may be stronger for people who are predisposed to anxiety.
There are steps you can take to ease the feelings if you find yourself with heightened anxiety among other hangover symptoms. Take time to lightly exercise, drink plenty of water and practice deep breathing to help your body relax.
If you frequently experience feelings of anxiety after consuming alcohol, take it as a sign to cut back on drinking. And if the anxiety symptoms feel unbearable, talk to your doctor about treatment options, including therapy and medications.