Hangxiety – Hangover Anxiety
Hangover anxiety, and the relationship anxiety has with alcohol.
BEFORE I START, CAN I JUST CLARIFY… THIS REALLY ISN’T A PREACHY, ‘WOW LOOK AT ME MAKING A CHANGE IN MY LIFE’ POST. IT’S JUST SOMETHING I WANTED TO OPEN UP ABOUT. I RECEIVED A LOT OF PERSONAL MESSAGES AND FEEDBACK AFTER MY FIRST POST. FROM PEOPLE SAYING THEY UNDERSTOOD HOW I FELT, AND I THINK THERE’S A CHANCE THIS SUBJECT WILL RESONATE WITH QUITE A FEW PEOPLE. SO HERE GOES…
Many people think that having a drink will help them feel more relaxed. But if you’re experiencing anxiety, drinking alcohol could be making things worse.
We’ve all been there. Drank too much, sank the trebles like they’re going out of fashion and done that many jägerbombs you’ve lost count. Then, the next day, that dreaded moment when you get a Facebook notification to say you’ve been tagged in a pic from the night before (of which you have no recollection) and your heart sinks. Or, if you’re really brave, you have the balls to flick through your sent messages, and you recoil in horror.
Alcohol affects anxiety because it acts as a sedative, so it can help you feel more at ease. It might make you feel more confident in social situations and help you forget your worries.
But these benefits don’t last long. When we drink alcohol, it upsets the balance of chemicals and processes in the brain. The relaxed feeling, we experience when we have our first drink is due to the chemical change’s alcohol causes in our brain. The alcohol starts to depress the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition.
The way your body processes alcohol can also have a direct effect on your mood. As your body processes the cocktails, gin, vodka, pints of lager or tequila’s you’ve drunk, the sedative effects subside. As well as the obvious headache and feeling sick, hangover symptoms can be psychological such as feeling depressed or anxious. Lots of people feel like this the morning after the night before. This is due to the fact they are withdrawing from the effects of alcohol.
Last year, before my anxiety came to a head, I just didn’t feel quite right. I was drinking more than usual, mainly because going out and socialising was helping to take my mind off the fact that I just didn’t feel myself. I continued to go out, because that would make me feel good, and lift my spirits. Whatever the social event – you name it – I was there, with a large gin in my hand! But for days after I was constantly worrying “What have I done, what did I say, have I upset anyone, why did they say that to me?” In fact, when I first began to realise, I was feeling anxious, I described it to my Mam as “like the day after you’ve had a drink, but you haven’t had a drink.”
But the more I began to feel lost in myself, I realised…
I’ve realised that this whole ‘going out and keeping busy’ way of trying to cope with things and mask my problems, was bullshit. In fact, it was making me feel worse. Not the actual going out – but the repercussions of drinking so much, so regularly.
I’d been to a friend’s wedding in June last year, drank waaayy too much and was due to fly out to Ibiza the next day (to go to another wedding. Shock, me going to another wedding) I had a huge panic attack just hours before I was due to leave for the airport and I remember thinking “Why do I feel like this?! I should be excited; I’m going away for an amazing holiday and to watch one of my best friends get married. I’d no reason to feel this way.” And the fact I knew, logically, that I had no reason to feel this way, made me panic even more.
I was all over the place. I didn’t even have a Burger King and a drink in the airport – which we all know is the done thing if you’re a Northerner going away. I’d even went into Boots in the Airport and spent a fortune on Kalms and other tablets in the hope it would make me feel better.
Throughout the holiday I could feel myself getting more and more anxious, but as soon as I did, I had a drink which helped me forget about how I was feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time and made some fantastic memories with my best friends. But now, when I look back, I feel like it was a completely different person who set foot on that plane, compared to who I am now.
Within a week of getting home, I had a huge panic attack and finally plucked up the courage to see my GP. I broke down in the clinic and told her exactly how I had been feeling. I was referred to the Psychological Wellbeing Services team where I was given some information leaflets about coping with anxiety. A recurring point made in the leaflets and when I was researching online, was cutting back on intake of things like caffeine, drugs and of course… Alcohol. This was also something my Psychiatrist echoed throughout my treatment.
This was when I realised, I needed to make a change. I’m very fortunate to have an incredible social circle. Going out and spending time with friends did ultimately help me get through a very hard time, however the by-product of feeling even more anxious after a drink, didn’t.
During my time off work, I found exercise to be my tonic (without the gin). Going for walks and to the gym every day helped free my mind and made me forget how I as feeling just for a short while – the same thing that drinking was doing, just without the after effect of my anxiety being worsened.
It’s weird how something you’ve always done has no effect on your life, then all of a sudden you need to make a massive change.
I was dubious about returning to Ibiza (yes, for yet another wedding) a few months later and was scared I’d have to go through those feelings all over again. I felt so in control of my thoughts and feelings in comparison to last time. I’ve drank less, continued to exercise (which was a first for me on holiday!) And still had just as good a time as I did when I went earlier in the year. I even managed a pint with my Burger King at the airport – result!
These days, I still go out with the girls, have so much fun, loads of laughs, dance the night away and roll in, in the early hours. Just without as much drink, without the hangover, and most importantly, without that horrendous wave as of anxiousness, as soon as I wake up the next day, that tends to last at least a few days. I simply can’t get in the states I used to. It’s not worth it.
Now that I’ve cut back on the drinking (and made other changes too), I can 100% feel a difference in myself. I definitely believe this plays a huge part in the fact I haven’t had a major relapse with my anxiety too. I’m lucky that I’m the sort of person who doesn’t necessarily need loads of alcohol to have a good time, so the change hasn’t been as drastic as I’d have expected, but I understand not everyone is like me.
I still get so many comments from people as to why I’m not drinking, or those who say “Haway man, why are you not as drunk as us? Get your drink down ya!” Well, now you know why…
So, next time you’re out, and you notice one of your friends is drinking perhaps a little more than usual, or quite the opposite, and is drinking less, make sure they’re OK – there could be a lot more to it than you think.
Thanks for reading x
PS – Soz if that got a bit deep – I just like to write how I feel!
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