The truth behind 'hangxiety' and how to fight it

The truth behind 'hangxiety' and how to fight it

As we get older, it's safe to say that most of us are unable to tolerate alcohol the same as we used to — whether it's the way our bodies react to a certain number of drinks, the types of drinks we're having, or the intensity of our hangovers that are felt the next day (and if you're really unlucky, the next few days). Enter: "hangxiety."

The science behind 'hangxiety' 

Even though it's safe to assume that a few drinks will help us out in ways like offset a bad day at work or give us liquid courage when dating — after all, this is what our family, friends, and the media have taught us since the beginning of time — research shows that indulging in these beverages may not be worth it in the long run. According to Teri Wilder, a licensed mental health counselor specializing in addiction and anxiety, there's actual truth behind hangxiety: as you age, your body loses its ability to tolerate alcohol. This results in increased anxiety symptoms, coupled with decreased liver function, which is essential for managing alcohol. 

Hangxiety is not only detrimental to your physical health, but it's dangerous for your emotional and mental health, too. Constant anxiety can lead to depression, as well as other mental disorders. It can also lead to substance abuse, insomnia, social isolation, and poor quality of life.

Gender differences with alcohol and anxiety

To make matters worse, for women, the repercussions that come with alcohol consumption are more severe than they are for men. This is due to biological differences in body structure and chemistry, which lead most women to absorb more alcohol than men and take longer to metabolize the alcohol. In turn, this can put women at a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects of alcohol. In reality, data shows that the more we drink, the more susceptible we are to developing liver diseases, circulatory disorders, breast cancer, fertility issues, and early onset of menopause.

Ways for women to take action

Taking a brief break from drinking can help provide a reset to your physical, emotional, and mental health. A study that measured the impact of drinking on health showed that participants who avoided alcohol for just one month showed a change in insulin resistance and improved blood pressure, weight, and liver function tests. Dry January may be once a year, but there's no need to wait for an 'official' dry month to test it out for yourself.

This spring, women will be able to access Seek, the first at-home test that measures how alcohol impacts women's health. Seek offers a preventive, science-backed approach that helps women monitor for early indicators of alcohol-related disease before a diagnosis. The accessible and affordable offering is backed by clinicians from the world's most prestigious hospitals and universities, including Penn, Rutgers, Mount Sinai, and UCLA Health. Women will be able to work with experts to uncover their best relationship with drinking through private virtual consults, personalized care plans, and insights based on results — which could include figuring out how to best avoid that hangxiety you dread post-night out.

All in all, here are some hangxiety prevention tips to keep in mind before your next night on the town:

  • Stay hydrated. Aim for 2-3 liters of water daily, and have a glass of water between drinks.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach; ensure you've eaten a substantial meal before going out. The small intestine most quickly absorbs alcohol, but the longer alcohol stays in the stomach, the slower it is absorbed. The slower it affects the body and your ability to think or move. Having food in your stomach will help your body digest alcohol slower and prevent alcohol from passing too quickly to your small intestine.
  • Get enough sleep. Staying on a consistent sleep schedule can improve your daily functions, and keep in mind that shorter nights of sleep can cause worse hangovers, cognitive performance, and concentration.
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