Beer fear! What is REALLY happening to your brain the morning after a big night out and how you can combat that crippling ‘hangxiety’

Waking up after a long party with a bad headache and hazy memories of the night before is a situation no one wants to find themselves in.

In addition to the physical symptoms of a hangover, such as nausea and dehydration, the dreaded “hangover” can be harmful.

The pun on hangovers and anxiety describes the feeling you get the morning after drinking alcohol, which can last for hours or even days.

You’re depressed and paranoid, and you can’t pinpoint why as you go through the night in your head and think about everything you’ve said and done.

MailOnline spoke to experts and doctors about what ‘anxiety’ actually is and how you can deal with strong emotions.

In addition to the physical symptoms of a hangover, such as nausea and dehydration, the dreaded “hangover” can be harmful.

National Health Service General Practitioner Dr. Hana Patel,explains that some people experience “anxiety” more than others.

She explained: “Research and evidence shows that there is a strong link between excessive alcohol consumption (more than 14 drinks per week) and depression.

“A hangover often makes you feel anxious and depressed. If you’re already feeling anxious or sad, drinking alcohol can make things worse, so cutting back on alcohol consumption can improve your overall mood.

“The reason alcohol can make us feel anxious or depressed is because it is a depressant.

“This means that it causes chemical changes in your brain that may initially make you feel calmer and more relaxed.”

However, she adds that when you stop drinking and the effects of the alcohol wear off, it can “worsen any feelings of anxiety, guilt or shame.”

The doctor continued: “Drinking alcohol makes us feel dehydrated, affects sleep and can lower blood sugar levels, increasing feelings of anxiety.

“Anxiety can occur in anyone after drinking alcohol. But while these feelings may be subtle for some, for others they can be a problem.

NHS GP Dr Hana Patel explains that some people experience 'anxiety' more than others.

NHS GP Dr Hana Patel explains that some people experience ‘anxiety’ more than others.

“You may be more prone to the effects of anxiety if you already tend to experience anxiety more often, as alcohol can make it worse.”

Dr. Deborah Lee from Doctor Fox Online Pharmacylisted typical symptoms of anxiety: severe restlessness, feelings of paranoia, difficulty concentrating, replaying and repeating past events, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

She explained: “These symptoms can last from a few hours to 24 hours or longer.

“Anxiety” doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic—it can happen to anyone after a bad night.

“However, if you are experiencing ‘anxiety’, it is a sign that it is time to reduce or stop drinking.”

She revealed the scientific reason for this phenomenon: “Alcohol affects the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) pathway in the brain, a neuroinhibitory pathway in the brain.

“When alcohol stimulates the GABA receptor, it turns on this inhibitory system, making you feel disinhibited and relaxed.

“But the next morning, as the alcohol is metabolized, the brain produces more GABA along with the neurotransmitter glutamate, making you even more anxious.

“If you already suffer from anxiety, drinking alcohol may make your anxiety symptoms worse once the effects of the alcohol wear off.”

Dr. Deborah Lee from online pharmacy Dr Fox also weighed in on the topic.

Dr. Deborah Lee from online pharmacy Dr Fox also weighed in on the topic.

How to stop worrying

When it comes to stopping anxiety, both experts’ advice isn’t what drinkers want to hear, but quitting alcohol altogether.

However, if you don’t want to do this, Dr. Deborah Lee advises you to:

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach, eat before going outside
  • Eat while you drink
  • Drink plenty of water, one glass for every alcoholic drink.
  • Choose low-alcohol drinks. Set out the drinks. Drink soft drinks between
  • The next morning, have a good breakfast: eggs on toast can provide much-needed protein and carbohydrates, as well as B vitamins. The meal will help restore your blood sugar levels.
  • Do some exercise – take a walk or do some gentle yoga. It’s not recommended to do a strenuous workout while hungover as you’ll likely be dehydrated, but fresh air and a walk can be helpful.
  • Take medications – There is no perfect cure for a hangover, but taking paracetamol or ibuprofen for headaches, antacids for acid reflux/indigestion, or an anti-cancer drug such as ondansetron for nausea and vomiting may help.
  • Rest. Try to catch up on lost sleep. Alcohol consumption leads to sleep disturbances, decreased REM sleep and frequent awakenings at night.
  • Relax. Try mindfulness and/or meditation. Take a warm bath or shower and listen to gentle music.

She also suggests trying “mindful drinking,” which means “deciding what you’ll drink when you go out, sticking to your plan, and enjoying the drinks you drink.”

The doctor explains: “Mindful drinking is a movement supported by doctors to help people reduce their alcohol consumption. This can help reduce alcohol consumption by 30% or more.”

Mindful drinking is similar to “sober curiosity” – a trend that has recently taken off on social media – and is intended for those who want to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol.

The advice comes as Millie Gooch, from Kent, spoke about going from being a party girl with “constant anxiety” to being sober at the age of 26.

She began drinking regularly at 18, during Freshers’ Week, when she began studying English Language and Literature at the University of Sussex.

She says the drinking culture meant she drank heavily several times a week and regularly drank a pint of Red Bull in the evenings, but at the time she didn’t see it as a problem.

Now sober for more than five years and “happier than ever,” she runs the Sober Girls Society, a community of sober, sober, inquisitive women.

Although “nothing in particular” prompted her to quit smoking, she says she suddenly realized she didn’t want to continue living with her drinking problems.

She said: “The hangover I gave up was completely normal for me – nothing life-changing happened, nothing crazy about it.

“But I just had a sense of clarity: I can’t continue living like this.

“I didn’t want to drink to cope with social anxiety – I was tired of going on dates and couldn’t remember what happened the night before.

“It was terrible and I struggled.”

She adds: “I feel a lot calmer now,” she said. “I can manage my mental health much better.

“I have become much more stable – I no longer create all the problems and disasters for myself. I’m much happier.”


One screening tool widely used by health care providers is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test). The 10-question test, developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization, is considered the gold standard for helping determine whether a person has a problem with alcohol abuse.

The test is reproduced here with permission from WHO.

To complete the assignment, answer each question and record the corresponding score.


0-7: You are within reasonable drinking limits and have a low risk of developing alcohol-related problems.

More than 8: Indicate harmful or dangerous use of alcohol.

8-15: Medium risk level. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider downsizing (see below for tips).

16-19: Increased risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting down on your own at this level may be difficult as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your therapist and/or counselor.

20 and older: Possible addiction. Your drinking is already causing you problems and you may well become addicted. You should definitely consider phasing out your drinking, or at least reducing your alcohol intake. You should seek professional help to determine your level of addiction and the safest way to quit alcohol.

Severe addiction may require drug withdrawal or detoxification in a hospital or specialized clinic. This is due to the likelihood of developing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours, requiring specialized treatment.