What It Feels Like to Have an 'Anxiety Hangover'


Have you ever had a hangover? Chances are if you are old enough to drink you’ve had at least one dance with the hangover monster. Your head is killing you, your stomach is doing more flips than a circus acrobat and you can hardly function.

Now how about what I like to call an anxiety hangover, have you ever experienced one of those? In many ways, it’s just as unpleasant as an alcohol-induced hangover, but the downside is it can go on for much, much longer and bring in a bout of depression. Let me explain how this works.

First comes the anxiety attack. Your heart rate is up, you start feeling really, really anxious about every single little thing, your palms start sweating, your throat is dry and you feel suffocated, your stomach feels sick and you’re uncontrollably shaking. You know all too well exactly what this is but whatever attempts you make to calm yourself down are just not
working. Anything little thing that’s on your mind suddenly becomes front and center and turns into a do or die scenario. You feel scared, alone and helpless. Reality slips away and is replaced with this world that is frightening, lonely and dangerous. When you try to reach out for assurance you end up attacking and pushing away those people that you really want close to you. But this is not the monster I’m speaking of today. My monster comes after.

Much like waking up after a particularly good night of partying, once the anxiety goes out and the calm sets in you look around, try to piece back together the events of the night and survey the damage. All the things you said during the attack, all the things you wanted to stop yourself from saying but couldn’t have now been said. All your most irrational fears are right there up on the surface. You regret it, you regret it so damn much and would give anything to undo it. But you can’t. People have a hard time understanding how damaging your own thoughts can be, especially when you lose all control of them.

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So, you try to apologize, try to explain that you never meant to be that way. More often than not the subject of your “attacks” is not a person who understands or has experienced anxiety, we naturally seek these people out craving their calm demeanor, but for them it’s almost impossible to understand. They generally don’t react well, it’s too much for them, they call you crazy. This is crushing, absolutely crushing!

This is where the depression sits in. You regret everything. The way you acted, the things you said, you regret that you even allowed yourself to interact with anyone in that state. Sometimes it’s unfix-able, you’re just too much and they don’t want to deal with it. Then the loneliness, the self-doubt, the feelings of unworthiness all set in and you’re left alone standing there in the middle of the battlefield, chaos and destruction all around you.

Every time it happens you feel a little less. Less worthy, less than enough, less valued. That ugly horrible part of you keeps popping up and strangling your happiness. You start to believe that maybe you really are “crazy,” that nobody will ever be able to see past this monster and discover all the beautiful things you have to offer. It’s a different kind of heartbreak because you want to be better, but you’re not sure if you can be.  So, you withdraw, curl up with the miserable way you feel and this can last awhile, until the cycle starts all over again.

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Thinkstock photo via pecaphoto77

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