Severe anxiety after a weekend of drinking?
June 18, 2019 3:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm a mostly infrequent drinker -- 1-2 glasses of wine or cocktails with friends; I'll go weeks and weeks without any alcohol at all. This past weekend, due to a packed social schedule, I drank 2 cocktails on Friday, a half of a bottle of wine on Saturday and a ~lot~ on Sunday. Today (Tues) I got walloped by a long-lasting wave of "EVERYTHING IS DOOMED" anxiety. I recently cut out coffee because it was making me anxious. Could a high number of drinks have the same effect? If you have anxiety, how does alcohol affect you?

Monday I felt normal hungover - lethargic, droopy, headache-y. It's today that has felt like a horror show!

Most resources I see online are for more frequent drinkers and/or alcoholics. I think I have a pretty healthy relationship with alcohol and this past weekend's alcohol consumption was very unusual for me (and won't happen again, if this wave of terrible anxiety was caused by it)! I have low-level anxiety that I take medication for but I've noticed it getting way better when I quit coffee and exercise regularly. I'm in my mid-30's.

Basically I'd like personal stories if you've had similar experiences.
posted by rogerroger to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This is a good article about the science behind why alcohol can cause anxiety and why some people are more affected by it than others.
posted by kyten at 3:37 PM on June 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yes, hangover anxiety is absolutely brutal for me, and I don't think it's that unusual. It can be ameliorated the same way as any other anxiety: water, food, sugar, moderate exercise and good old sweating it out.

I don't think there's any other advice I have to offer.
posted by ambrosen at 3:37 PM on June 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

I have long suffered from anxiety and have often had this sort of experience after drinking. I think kyten's article is well worth a read and matches up with some other things I've read / come to understand about the brain and anxiety.

Also, even moderate amounts of alcohol can really do a number on your sleep. And poor sleep certainly can affect one's mood in a myriad of ways. You say you're in your thirties... my experience was that actions/behaviors which had little to no effect on me in my 20's, had a much greater effect during my 30's. (Don't even get me started on the effects in my 40's, lol). So, you could be experiencing your body adapting differently to something that used to not be an issue whatsoever.

But yeah, alcohol can really mess with your sleep. I'll bet one or two nights of good sleep has a good chance of righting you. And 2nding the suggesting for moderate exercise. Even light exervise, going for a walk, lifting some small weights, I know helps my anxiety out a lot, esp when I'm "stuck".

Good luck!
posted by armoir from antproof case at 4:04 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't have a particularly good way to avoid hangover anxiety, but I too want to chime in to say that this is totally normal, I get it too, and it's very common. I ride it out by being aware of the problem. On a bad-feels hangover day I just tell myself 'DSime, life is not going horribly wrong, nobody hates you, and you have done nothing to feel guilty about. This is just a chemical feeling and tomorrow you will not feel this way'. Then I eat extra carbs and power through. The day after I almost always feel back to normal. I got to a place of balance with it because I went through a few years of pretty heavy drinking, and seeing the cycle play out on a very regular basis made me much more aware of the mood-swing element as just part of the standard routine.
posted by DSime at 4:05 PM on June 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes, this is what Kingsley Amis called the metaphysical hangover.
When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a s**t you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is and there is no use crying over spilt milk.
posted by Brittanie at 4:05 PM on June 18, 2019 [17 favorites]

Yep. Alcohol is a depressant, dehydration is bad for cognitive function, and the depleted magnesium and potassium can fuck you up in a number of ways, on top of the reduced sleep quality you get from sleeping drunk.

Get some electrolytes and water in, eat well, get a night or two of sleep and you should feel back to baseline.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:25 PM on June 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

Based on my personal experiences: this is normal after a binge. I don't generally have any kind of anxiety issues, but when hung over...I get absolutely debilitating cases of The Fear (as alcoholics call it), and it only gets worse with age. It tends to outlast the physical hangover symptoms by about 16-24 hours, and the only thing that seems to make it better is time.

As a result, I am increasingly careful about ensuring that I moderate my drinking.
posted by BrandonW at 4:26 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have post-social anxiety that is an order of magnitude greater when I am hungover - the severity of it anecdotally seems to be very correlated to how good a job I did hydrating myself and pacing my drinking.
posted by thelastpolarbear at 4:52 PM on June 18, 2019

We call this “post-party depression.”
posted by Buddy_Boy at 5:07 PM on June 18, 2019

Yes. Absolutely.
posted by Neekee at 5:41 PM on June 18, 2019

At times, I experience just plain anxiety from alcohol, even when I don't overdo it. This can happen DURING drinking, for me, not just afterward - and it's nowhere near depression, just pure anxiety, as if I'd drank way too much caffeine instead. (I pretty much don't get sleepy from alcohol, I either stay whatever I would be without having drank, or I'm wide-awake and anxious.) It's a pretty big deterrent from alcohol, in my experience, lol.
posted by stormyteal at 5:44 PM on June 18, 2019

Yes, this happens to me. It usually happens when my anxiety is flaring up anyway. Drinking is way more fun when my anxiety is generally more under control.

Once the damage is done, it's like any other hangover symptom--the only reliefs are knowing it will fade with time, and time. It really does help to remind myself that it is temporary, that it's a result of the intersection of anxiety and alcohol, and not actually about whatever I'm worrying about.
posted by lampoil at 5:57 PM on June 18, 2019

Yeah, I don't remember being like this when I was younger but this has started to happen to me in the last few years if I drink a significant amount, though I would say general I'm less anxious otherwise. I'm 31. Usually lasts maybe 36 hours or so?
posted by geegollygosh at 6:01 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh my God, yes!!! I often get massive anxiety after drinking. It's not even necessary for me to drink too much. Sometimes just one beer will do it. For me, if I'm going to have alcohol, I try to eat something before hand, and then limit my drinks to just two, with lots of water and/or juice afterwards. That works most times to keep the anxiety away. Most times, but not always.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 6:02 PM on June 18, 2019

Nth-ing that I've definitely had a huge feeling of shame/anxiety post-drinking a lot. Definitely very common.
posted by augustimagination at 7:27 PM on June 18, 2019

posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:33 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nothing much new to add, except to echo that this is exactly why I quit drinking-to-get-drunk. My Sunday Night Sads (anxiety or depression spirals) were starting to get downright scary, and no one else I knew had ever experienced anything like it. I thought I had some unusual combination of mental health problems triggered by alcohol.

I now have a drink (or maybe, MAYBE two) 3 or 4 times a year, and always with food. I also get up the next morning and drink lots of water and get out for a long walk in nature.
posted by LynnDee at 9:03 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also watch out for overdoing the caffeine the next day to compensate for being tired; anecdotally I think it makes this worse.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:27 PM on June 18, 2019

I have anxiety and that is why I don't really drink anymore - even if I have been months without a panic attack I am bound to get them in waves after a night of heavy drinking. Reading articles about why this happens has at least allowed me to contextualise/understand it, but I think I am stuck with it.
posted by thereader at 12:11 AM on June 19, 2019

I get this, except with more depression/dysphoria tones. It's one of the major reasons I quit drinking a few years ago. Earlier this year I tried drinking moderately again, but even small quantities had a noticeable effect on my mental health for as long as week after consumption, so I doubt I'm going to bother again.
posted by terretu at 12:20 AM on June 19, 2019

Nthng Yes. And with some types of alcohol more than others. I've given up wine because a single glass of red plunges me straight into depression.
posted by penguin pie at 4:45 AM on June 19, 2019

Yes, and it is awful, debilitating. I call it my Post-Drinking Existential Dread. Nothing helps: not electrolytes, not food, not water... nothin' but time.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:43 AM on June 19, 2019

Yes, definitely. As time as gone on I notice my anxiety spikes after drinking several days in a row, even if it's just 1-2 drinks in a given session (which is typically well within my tolerance limits.) It's horrible - I vastly prefer a physical hangover.

I still enjoy having a drink, so if there's some big event - a wedding, birthday, whatever - where I know I'm going to mildly tie one on I try to psychologically steel myself to feel like this and remind myself it will pass. Not drinking on consecutive days helps. Exercise helps. Getting older sucks!
posted by superfluousm at 6:59 AM on June 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Alcohol really screws with blood sugar, and when my body and blood sugar are out of whack, anxiety is likely. Treat yourself well with good nutrition - fiber(helps regulate blood sugar), vegetables, protein, and limited sugar. Lots of water.
posted by theora55 at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2019

Oh yeah, when I drink I feel great for a while and then the whole world is fucked. As a result, I never drink heavily, only a little for a buzz.

The article in the top comment has it WRT to the brain chemical effects, but the way alcohol affects your sleep cycles is the other big one. Basically, binge drinking is bad news for your brain, and when you have a bad news brain already, it's extra bad news.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:36 AM on June 19, 2019

Yeah, alcohol will mess with your sleep a lot. I sadly have too much experience with that. You'll fall asleep faster sure but it will wear off and spike your adrenaline mid-sleep. Then you're awake and it's hard to get restful sleep. I really gotta stop drinking for that reason (and others!). I get the existential dread/bad feelings too.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:39 AM on June 19, 2019

Yup, I totally ended up in the ER because I was convinced I was dying during a hangover panic attack.
posted by TheCoug at 11:01 AM on June 19, 2019

I have anxiety and take a low dose of meds for it and get like that too. I drank a fair bit over this last weekend and am still feeling background anxiety of the chest-tightening, worried-about-everything, feeling-reluctant-to-leave-the-house variety. I usually don't drink that often because I noticed even just one drink on a particular evening will leave me feeling kind of off the next day.
posted by sevenofspades at 11:58 AM on June 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

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