Approximately 18% of adults in Delaware engage in binge drinking, which has resulted in numerous challenges for our state. Beyond the typical consequences of not feeling well after heavy alcohol consumption, hangovers can trigger panic attacks and heightened anxiety for many members of our community. For those managing a mental health condition, the impact of these hangovers can be highly significant.
At SUN Behavioral Delaware, we know how tempting it can feel to self-medicate your anxiety disorder with alcohol. At the time, it might feel like a magic fix. But did you know that drinking could be endangering your mental health? Let’s talk about panic attacks after drinking and what you can do to stop them.
The term “hangxiety” refers to the anxiety someone experiences the day after a night of heavy drinking. It can manifest itself as racing thoughts, feelings of guilt or shame, or the inability to relax or sleep. Hangxiety usually only happens alongside a hangover, when the body is dehydrated and tired from the night before. Things like headaches, body aches, fatigue, and nausea/vomiting caused by the hangover can add to these feelings. It is during this time that panic attacks can become common. This combination of dehydration and physical ailments alongside shame or guilt can manifest into full-blown anxiety.
It’s also harder to stop anxiety from happening during a hangover because the body hasn’t had enough sleep. The sleep that someone has after a night of drinking is fragmented. Rapid eye movement (REM) is reduced when someone is drunk, which significantly impacts sleep quality leading to feelings of grogginess and fatigue. Because of this, clear thinking and problem-solving are reduced, which makes it easier to surrender to unhealthy thoughts or habits.
When you have alcohol in your system, or when your body is working to eliminate alcohol from the night before, stopping a panic attack will be more challenging than on a “sober” day. All of the healthy coping strategies you’ve accumulated will feel fuzzier because the brain isn’t as sharp. You’re also going to be far more prone to rumination (focusing on the same negative thoughts over and over). However, just because it’s harder to stop a panic attack during this time doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Here are some unique ways to stop a panic attack when you’re hungover:
Any time you’re feeling anxious or out of balance with your emotions while hungover, the most important thing to remember is that it’s temporary. Your emotions are heightened during this time. After sleep and healthy foods, you will feel like a different person. It’s also a good idea to think about creating a healthier relationship with alcohol. It might make you feel relaxed and happy at the time, but if it creates this kind of panic, it simply isn’t worth it.
When a panic attack begins, you should try the coping strategies listed above. If those don’t work for you, try to surround yourself with people and things that bring you comfort. Exercise - even something as simple as a small walk - can also be beneficial if you feel a panic attack coming on.
Those who have a current diagnosis of anxiety or panic disorder are far more likely to experience “hangxiety” and panic attacks post-drinking. The most common types of anxiety include:
Being diagnosed with one anxiety disorder doesn’t make an individual exempt from another. Someone may experience multiple anxiety disorders. They could also be managing an anxiety disorder alongside another mental health condition, like depression.
Some of the symptoms noted by the people who manage anxiety disorders include:
Alcohol will almost always worsen pre-existing mental conditions, especially in cases of anxiety or depression. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the nervous system. At the time, it may feel like alcohol is making you feel relaxed and happy. Eventually, alcohol causes increased feelings of sadness or fear because of the way it interacts with the brain and nervous system. Those who use alcohol heavily and for prolonged periods also risk the brain’s reward pathways becoming dislodged or manipulated. Things that used to bring them joy, like food or sex, no longer bring joy unless alcohol is consumed.
Alcohol can also interact with certain medications used to treat mental health conditions, making those medications ineffective or exacerbating the chance of side effects. If you or someone you care about is frequently consuming alcohol while on antidepressants or antipsychotics, talk to your doctor about it.
Anxiety is often caused by traumas, genetics, or chronic stress. Alcohol has a history of making these things more unbearable. The brain doesn’t have a chance to heal or create healthy neural pathways when it’s inundated with alcohol all the time. Additionally, if you or someone you love is drinking in excess when going through something difficult, the alcohol could make it hard to process the event. Heavy and regular alcohol use can also take a toll on someone’s physical health, which can lead to the development or worsening of any mental health conditions.
If you or someone you love is having a hard time controlling how much alcohol you drink or how frequent your panic attacks are, it might be time to seek treatment. At SUN Behavioral Delaware, we know that every patient’s healing journey is unique. That’s why we offer a large variety of treatment programs for alcohol use disorder and anxiety disorders.
Alcohol detox happens in the first 72 hours after your last drink. It’s the process your body goes through to flush the alcohol out of its system. During this time, your body works hard to rid itself of any toxins left behind. This is when withdrawal symptoms usually start, peak, and subside.
SUN Behavioral Health’s Alcohol Detox happens during this time. You’ll come in and meet with one of our clinicians to be assessed for your needs and to create some goals for yourself. People who choose detox stay in our facility so we can monitor their condition, treat their withdrawal symptoms, and help them heal safely and efficiently.
Inpatient treatment provides patients with a stable and supportive environment. Here, they can focus on their recovery while being surrounded by trained and licensed professionals and others who are going through the same thing.
During inpatient treatment, patients stay on sight at the rehab facility 24/7. They get to experience a wide variety of activities and programs during their day from individual therapy sessions and group sessions to activities such as yoga or hobbies that help rebuild new habits and focus the mind on healing.
If inpatient treatment doesn’t work for your schedule or lifestyle, outpatient and PHP can help. Outpatient programs can also act as a stepping stone between inpatient and the end of treatment. This type of care usually does not require patients to stay at the facility while being treated. When visiting the facility, patients spend time in customized sessions throughout the day. This can be beneficial for full-time employees seeking treatment because it allows patients to continue to maintain a life outside of treatment.
If you or someone you know is living with an alcohol use disorder and is experiencing frequent panic attacks after drinking, SUN Behavioral Health Delaware can help. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our available treatment options, call us today at 302-604-5600 so we can help you get your life back.
It’s hard to stop anxiety from happening during a hangover because the body hasn’t had enough sleep or water. The sleep that someone has after a night of drinking is fragmented. Rapid eye movement (REM) is reduced when someone is drunk, which significantly impacts sleep quality leading to feelings of grogginess and fatigue. Because of this, clear thinking and problem-solving are reduced, which makes it easier to surrender to unhealthy thoughts or habits.
The more your body hydrates, the better your major organs (including your brain) will feel. First, try small sips of water over an hour or two. After that, try moving up to 8-12 ounces of water every hour until you feel regulated again.
It varies from person to person, but post-drinking anxiety usually lasts around 24 hours. Once the body has been hydrated and you’ve caught up on sleep, the hangover (and your anxiety) will begin to decrease.