Science Tutor Explains 'Hangxiety' and Why You Get it After Drinking

·2-min read
Photo credit: Kate Aedon - Getty Images
Photo credit: Kate Aedon - Getty Images

The sun was beating down on the UK over the bank holiday weekend, so we understand if you got a little excited and had one too many drinks.

If you did go a little heavy over the Bank Holiday, you've also probably woken up with a hangover from hell or even worse you're suffering from the dreaded 'hangxiety'.

We've all been there, but speaking on her TikTok channel Soph's Notes, science tutor and presenter, Sophie Ward broke down exactly what 'hangxiety' is and why it happens.

Turns out, no, you're not the worst person in the world whose friends all low-key hate you. All that's happening is you're suffering from a chemical imbalance.

"If you've ever felt super anxious when you're hungover, then don't worry, a lot of people do," said Ward. "Hangxiety is a real thing caused by real chemical changes in your brain.

"When you drink, chemicals in your brain are affected, namely glutamate and GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid). These normally have opposing effects on the brain – glutamate making it more active and GABA making it less active.

"Drinking alcohol simultaneously increases the amount of chill GABA we have whilst decreasing the amount of wired glutamate. This means your brain is acting in super slow mo, giving you slower reactions and lower inhibitions.

"The morning after your brain tries to rebalance – it becomes super sensitive to glutamate, which makes it hyperactive and you anxious, while becoming less sensitive to GABA, which would normally step in to chill you out.

"It's basically the reverse of what was happening while you were drinking and is a recipe for hangxiety."

So there you have it. That feeling you have when you're hungover – the one that makes you drop a 'I'm never drinking again' message into your group chat – is just your body trying to balance chemicals that were knocked out of sync when you started drinking.

"So, no, you're not the worst person in the world who only did embarrassing things last night," said Ward.

"You're just a bit chemically unbalanced. But hopefully next time it'll help you to know that."

Oh, and if you were wondering why it is that you can't remember anything from your night out, Ward answered that in the comments too, saying that 'blacking out' may be "down to glutamate getting blocked when you drink (it has a role in memory formation)."

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