This Is Why You Have Anxiety After Drinking, And How To Combat It

Feeling delicate this morning? Here's why.

There's a scientific reason for feeling a little low the morning after. 

People feel anxious after drinking because alcohol directly affects the brain’s neurotransmitters which cause one to experience calmness and euphoria.

For example, alcohol suppresses glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. By the time the alcohol wears off, the body often has adjusted to the glutamate suppression by making more glutamate.

So you have this extra glutamate out there that makes you more anxious.

Another big reason for this anxiety is withdrawal.

The relaxing and pleasurable effects of alcohol usually only last a few hours and are often followed by your typical hangover and withdrawal symptoms like headaches, anxiety, and increased heart rate.

Also, some people who are very sensitive to having panic attacks and anxiety attacks will self-medicate with alcohol. But, when the alcohol wears off, then the feelings of anxiety will come back even worse.”

But that’s not all. There’s also a chemical in your brain called Corticotropin-Releasing Factor (CRF), which acts as a stress neurotransmitter.

When you drink alcohol, your body suppresses CRF, but during withdrawal, the amount of CRF increases, often leading to heightened stress and anxiety responses.

Not everyone experiences the dreadful feeling of anxiety after having a few drinks. But, if you’re worried about how alcohol may be affecting your anxiety, try DrinkAware's four-step guide:

1. Track how much you’re drinking to help spot patterns so you can avoid triggers – the Drinkaware: Track and calculate units app or MyDrinkaware online tracker can help. 

2. If you’re drinking more than 14 units a week, try to cut down. Here are some useful tips and advice on how to take a break from alcohol. If you’re worried you may be dependent on alcohol talk to your GP or contact an alcohol support service

3. Once you’ve cut down your drinking, keep going like this for a couple of weeks. Most people can expect to see an improvement in their anxiety symptoms in this time as the brain’s balance of chemicals and processes start to return to normal and you experience better quality sleep.

4. If you’re still feeling anxious after three weeks you should speak to your GP. Talking therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), can help you learn to spot unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Your GP should be able to tell you about local services. 

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