Your question: Why do I get anxiety when I have a hangover?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Drinking alcohol is a long-standing social practice. It is common and acceptable for many people to go out alone or in a group to drink alcohol occasionally. However, when you drink excessively, you experience unpleasant sensations.

One of the most universally known is the hangover: that feeling of heaviness, fatigue, headache and general emotional discomfort that usually appears the next morning after drinking alcohol.

Each person is different, and therefore has a unique relationship with alcohol. Some, even if they have had a minimal amount, feel a hangover the next morning.

One study (1) found a link between alcohol consumption and anxiety symptoms. The research showed that 12% of the people surveyed experience intense anxiety episodes the morning after drinking alcohol, although the symptoms can also appear moments after the alcohol intake.

Whatever your case may be, the feeling of anxiety that comes along with a hangover is a fairly common one. This is because the symptoms of hangover and anxiety are often similar.

When you drink alcohol, your body must process and digest it, so you experience various physical and emotional symptoms during and after drinking alcohol. A common reaction to waking up with a hangover is anxiety, as people may feel panic and intense worry about hangover symptoms.

Although this situation is annoying and may worry you, you should know that it is normal and expected, and there are ways to cope with it. You do not necessarily have to give up drinking alcohol completely to avoid this problem, although you should consider that the feeling of anxiety when you have a hangover may be a message from your body that you should cut down on your drinking.

To cope with this problem, you must know your body and your relationship with anxiety, finding the source of the anxiety that occurs when you have a hangover, so you can then employ strategies to feel better.

How does anxiety feel when you have a hangover?

When it comes to anxiety linked to alcohol consumption, the symptoms are specific to situations where alcohol is involved, such as a party or meeting, or the period after drinking alcohol:

  • Feeling of panic or intense fear.
  • Fear of losing control or dying.
  • Tachycardia, sweating and muscular tension.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Urge to vomit
  • Inability to control emotions; fear, anger, sadness and joy.

Why do you feel anxiety when you have a hangover?

There are several reasons why you may feel anxious when you wake up with a hangover, some of these are:


It has been shown (2) that there is a genetic predisposition to suffer from drinking anxiety if there is a family history of alcoholism and drinking problems.

Sleep problems

Drinking anxiety can be caused by sleep problems such as insomnia. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol stimulates the brain and releases neurotransmitters that keep you in constant activity. This activity in turn triggers restlessness, nervousness and ultimately anxiety.

Increased cortisol level

Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, and is responsible, among other things, for regulating our emotions and coping with stressful or anxiety-generating situations. Alcohol increases cortisol levels, keeping the body in a state of anxiety and stress, even after several hours of drinking (3). 

How to reduce anxiety when you have a hangover?

You do not necessarily have to stop drinking alcohol permanently. However, if even with these techniques you feel that your situation remains the same or worsens, it is advisable to seek professional help to determine if your problem requires you to stop drinking completely and apply new strategies.

Examine your relationship with alcohol

Alcohol is an acquired habit, and each person has his or her own history in relation to it. If the hangover generates recurrent anxiety, it is necessary that you question and ask yourself how is your relationship with alcohol, inquiring if there is a family history of alcoholism and reflecting on whether you drink to try to avoid emotional problems.

This will allow you to determine if you have a problem with alcohol that is not conscious. Many people use alcohol as a temporary escape from their problems, and this causes them problems in the short term. If this is your case, you should question and decrease the amount of alcohol you consume on a regular basis.

Paced Breathing

Paced Breathing is a technique that can help to activate stress reduction mechanisms in the body by promoting a harmonious state between your respiratory system and your heart. The technique consists of inhaling and exhaling in periods of 4 to 6 seconds, focusing your attention on a specific object, image or sound that brings you calm and comfort. It is extremely effective for when the overwhelming symptoms of your drinking anxiety appear.

New socializing spaces

Working to reduce alcohol consumption is a problem when your close circle consumes alcohol on a regular basis. Therefore it is necessary that you create new spaces for socializing where you are not exposed to alcohol. This will allow you to feel more in control, avoiding alcoholic beverages that trigger hangovers that in turn cause anxiety, and also create new friendships that will support you in your fight against anxiety.

In my experience…

Feeling anxious along with an alcohol hangover is a common occurrence, and you don’t necessarily have to stop drinking alcohol forever to stop this problem. It is certainly important to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink, as this will generally prevent you from getting a hangover. 

But anxiety should also be addressed as a separate problem. It is necessary both to reconsider your relationship with alcohol and to become aware of the problems that make you anxious. You have the ability to do this by questioning your thoughts, practicing relaxation and seeking professional help when you feel you need extra support.

I believe that you have the ability to improve and heal these feelings of discomfort you are experiencing now. The fact that you are seeking professional help through this message proves it to me, and I applaud you for making that decision and being on track to improve your mental health and overall, your physical health

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