We can all agree that hangovers are no fun. They can cause a wide range of physical symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headaches etc., but they also can cause psychological symptoms that most of us may not even realize, hangover anxiety being one of them. Most of us know alcohol to be a suppressant, however it is also an indirect stimulant.
According to Susan Scholl, a health and wellness professor at Syracuse University, “hangover anxiety and depression can be especially severe if someone is already predisposed to these emotions.” For example, if someone is suffering with pre-existing anxiety or depression, alcohol consumption may cause their symptoms to worsen.
Hangover anxiety, though, can occur in any person whether or not they are predisposed to anxiety and depression, because the consumption of alcohol can induce neurochemical and nutrient imbalances in the brain and body. According to anxietyguru.com, “Why Alcohol Causes Anxiety,” there are six major reasons that alcohol consumption can trigger anxiety: mood being the first reason. As it turns out, the alcohol consumption decreases the level of serotonin in the brain. When the brain is in short supply of this feel good chemical, it can trigger both anxiety, depression and even sleep disturbances.
According to the article, alcohol consumption can also cause a drop in blood sugar, and such a change can induce nervousness, numbness, shaking, weakness and confusion. The nervous system is also greatly affected by the after effects of alcohol, because as the body tries to fight off the sedative affects that alcohol can cause, further sending the nervous system and body into a state of hyperactivity, inducing anxiety.
When it comes to how alcohol affects the brain, we discussed above how alcohol consumption can affect serotonin. When we look at the brain alone, it’s important to note that there are two types of neurotransmitters: excitatory and inhibitory. Both are responsible for sending, receiving and transmitting information to other parts of the brain and body that help regulate mood, emotions and bodily functions. Forbes.com published a highly informative article on “What Alcohol Really Does to Your Brain.” The article notes glutamate as an example of an excitatory neurotransmitter, which normally increases brain activity and energy levels. According to the article, “Alcohol suppresses the release of glutamate, resulting in a slowdown along your brain’s highways.”
The site also goes on to list GABA as an example of an inhibitory neurotransmitter and states”…GABA, which reduces energy levels and calms everything down. Drugs like Xanax and Valium (and other benzodiazepines) increase GABA production in the brain, resulting in sedation.” The use of alcohol does the same thing.
The main drawback for me is that I woke up with an upset stomach and I felt a bit nauseated. It is important to note, however, that Ashwagandha is not intended to be a hangover cure. Don’t take away anything from the product because it delivers its claimed effects. If hangover is your main concern, I suggest adding this to other products that are specifically formulated to treat its symptoms.
The effects that alcohol has on both GABA and serotonin help create the sedation feeling, but what happens when the sedation wears off, and the body begins to withdrawal from the alcohol?
Alcohol increases the release of dopamine in the brain’s “reward center.” According to Forbes.com: “By jacking up dopamine levels in your brain, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great (or maybe just better, if you are drinking to get over something emotionally difficult). The effect is that you keep drinking to get more dopamine release, but at the same time you’re altering other brain chemicals that are enhancing feelings of depression and anxiety.”
In conclusion, because alcohol consumption plays such a major role in causing imbalances in dopamine, GABA, and serotonin, which are all listed on umm.edu (5) as the primary neurotransmitter culprits for causing anxiety in general, it is easy to see how and why alcohol can cause anxiety the morning after.
Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking.