Anxiety After Drinking


Many of my clients who have anxiety after drinking are using  alcohol as a drug of choice because of it's immediate inhibitory effect. It makes them feel great fairly quickly, and generally whatever they were anxious about becomes forgotten. Imagine their dismay and surprise when they discover the next day that their anxiety has increased, and that they may even be having panic attacks far worse than they experienced before their drinking. This can lead to even more drinking the next day to escape the feelings and emotions brought on by the hangover. Anxiety after drinking is very commonly reported. However there is scant evidence in the research about it because it hasn't been a focus of treatment. In my office, however, their is plenty anectodal evidence. 

What happens after a night of  drinking?

Research shows after you drink , your sleep patterns and blood sugar level can be disrupted and therefore, the next day your mood. ( McKinney and Coyle 2006). Mood disturbance includes anxiety and sometimes, panic attacks. Clients of mine have also reported depression and thoughts of guilt and shame. These emotions are usually accompanied by a hangover and the general unpleasent physical symptoms that accompany a hangover. 

Sometimes client's  anxiety about drinking can be over blackouts if they feel they may have lost time. Clients might wonder what did I do? They may feel concerned that they made a fool of themselves or did something dumb or stupid. The next morning, when they are at a disadvantage psychologically because of their mood distrubance, these thoughts may become very intrusive and unsettling, especially in the case of someone who has social anxiety. 

Occasionally the anxiety  is about nothing. It can be a physical sensation or a feeling of dread or danger, that can come over them and cause them to want to avoid their daily activities such as going to work or going to bed. Or, the anxiety after drinking may take the form of a full blown panic attack. In this case, they may reach for another drink or a sedative to avoid the feelings of the panic. 

What to do if you have anxiety after drinking

1. Consider cutting down. Most anxiety after drinking is linked to excessive or binge drinking. It may be that you are drinking to excess.

2. Don't avoid your daily activites. As with all anxiety disorders, avoidance reinforces them. You will feel worse if you call in sick to work, or if you stay in bed. Get up, take some aspirin, and go about your day. 

3. Practice self compassion. Criticizing and judging yourself will most likely trap you in a cycle of more drinking and anxiety. Get tips about that here.

4. Remind yourself this thoughts and feelings are temporary. They will pass even though they are uncomfortable. 


Mckinney, A  & Coyle, K. (2006)  Alcohol hangover effects on measures of affect the morning after a normal nights drinking. Alcohol and Alcoholism 41 (1) 54-60; DOI: 10.1093/alcalc/agh226

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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.