Hangovers & Anxiety
We've alllllllll been there.
Meeting the gals for a beer. Maybe a glass of wine. One becomes two. Two becomes four. Four becomes tequila shots. Tequila shots become a bottle of wine with a straw in at a bad nightclub with sticky floors and way too many neon lights.
Then, a stirring. You raise your head from your pillow, and realise that yes, you are alive.
How the HELL did I get home?
What did I say?
Where did we go?
How much did I drink?
And then, the dread kicks in. This horrible feeling of worthlessness and anxiety over the smallest things that will ruin your day.
What is this dread, and why does it happen?
I know I am THE WORST for it. I feel so horribly depressed and down, so full of regret and shame and self-hatred the day after going on the lash.
There's a brilliant Guardian piece on it, which explains the technical reasons why-
David Nutt, professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London, is the scientist who was fired in 2009 as the government’s chief drug adviser for saying alcohol is more dangerous than ecstasy and LSD. I tell him I have always assumed my morning-after mood was a result of my brain having shrivelled like a raisin through alcohol-induced dehydration. When Nutt explains the mechanics of how alcohol causes crippling anxiety, he paints an even more offputting picture.
The first two drinks lull you into a blissful Gaba-induced state of chill. When you get to the third or fourth drink, another brain-slackening effect kicks in: you start blocking glutamate, the main excitatory transmitter in the brain. “More glutamate means more anxiety,” says Nutt. “Less glutamate means less anxiety.” This is why, he says, “when people get very drunk, they’re even less anxious than when they’re a bit drunk” – not only does alcohol reduce the chatter in your brain by stimulating Gaba, but it further reduces your anxiety by blocking glutamate. In your blissed-out state, you will probably feel that this is all good – but you will be wrong.
The body registers this new imbalance in brain chemicals and attempts to put things right. It is a little like when you eat a lot of sweets and your body goes into insulin-producing overdrive to get the blood sugar levels down to normal; as soon as the sweets have been digested, all that insulin causes your blood sugar to crash. When you are drunk, your body goes on a mission to bring Gaba levels down to normal and turn glutamate back up. When you stop drinking, therefore, you end up with unnaturally low Gaba function and a spike in glutamate – a situation that leads to anxiety, says Nutt. “It leads to seizures as well, which is why people have fits in withdrawal.”
It can take the brain a day or two to return to the status quo, which is why a hair of the dog is so enticing. “If you drank an awful lot for a long time,” says Nutt, “it might take weeks for the brain to readapt. In alcoholics, we’ve found changes in Gaba for years.”
To add to the misery, the anxiety usually kicks in while you are trying to sleep off the booze. “If you measure sleep when people are drunk, they go off to sleep fast. They go into a deeper sleep than normal, which is why they sometimes wet the bed or have night terrors. Then, after about four hours, the withdrawal kicks in – that’s when you wake up all shaky and jittery.”
I've actually had it so frequently, I now have cut back on my drinking a lot to stop myself from feeling so depressed and down the next day.
It affects me in every way- I become lazy and don't want to do anything, then I hate socialising and feel like everyone is out to get me. Then, I feel so much self-hatred I often cry.
And the worst part is, this is normal for a hangover!
So, to combat this, if I do drink, I make sure I don't have anything to do the next day. I also make sure I'm not full of regret the next morning by only drinking at home with friends, or going out with good friends, and loading a specific amount of money onto my Monzo card in order to curb drunk spending. Also, that I have nothing on the next day as that'll make me feel worse about everything.
And, hopefully, by doing this, it'll help me in the future by stopping this horrible anxiety from spreading.