Emotional Hangovers: Understanding the Feelings of Depression that Sometimes Follow a Night of Heavy Drinking

Updated on August 9, 2016

Some people experience uncharacteristic sadness and/or anxiety upon waking after a night of heavy drinking. If you are not sure what the definition of binge drinking is, take the following into consideration: if you have a hangover and find it difficult to remember many details of the night before, then you were most likely binge drinking. After a night of binge drinking, some people experience emotional hangovers. The emotional aspect of such a hangover consists of the typical symptoms of depression: sadness, crying, lethargy, fatigue, anxiety, feeling like a failure, fears about the future. Here I outline the reasons for emotional hangovers as well as how to boost your mood and restore yourself to normal and avoid it future occurrences of the aforementioned symptoms.

Hormonal Imbalance

That alcohol consumption literally kills brain cells is an antiquated assertion. Drinking will temporarily inhibit cognitive and motor function, but your faculties will return in full once you have completely sobered. However, drinking can still have a significant psychological impact. Drinking in excess will throw off your body’s natural rhythm as it rushes to cope with the sudden intoxication. Drinking to intoxication is the cause of typical hangover symptoms. The gaba receptors in the brain are also negatively affected by alcohol, which results in temporary symptoms of depression.

Blood Sugar Levels and Dehydration

Alcohol is little more than a heavily processed sugar that your body has to break down in many different ways. This puts an immense strain on the pancreas and can cause a severe insulin spike. This will leave you with abnormally low blood sugar levels the next morning. Alcohol also promotes excessive urination and in cases of high level intoxication, vomiting. In addition to the high sugar content of alcohol, these additional side effects of overindulgence will contribute to severe dehydration. Low blood sugar and dehydration will have a significant impact on your mood.

As a means of prevention, I always recommend an equal volume of water between every alcoholic beverage consumed throughout the course of the evening. Not only will this keep you hydrated, it will also force you to slow the pace of your alcohol consumption. Keeping plenty of water in your system will also improve your body’s ability to deal with alcoholic intoxication. Most people do not feel like eating in the morning while they have a hangover, but having a glass of fruit juice on hand will be the perfect remedy for low blood sugar. Be sure that it is 100% fruit juice with no added sugar. Added cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup will only make the situation worse. If you can keep it down, try a piece of real fruit as well.

Geting Proper Sleep

When you binge drink, your sleep is disrupted. People who “black out” as a result of binge drinking are not getting proper sleep. This plays a major role in dampening your mood the morning after. A nap later in the day will be just what you need to help you reverse the negative impact your over-indulgence had on your sleep.

The Social Aspect

A significant contributing factor to an emotional hangover is concern about your behavior the night before. These fears can be augmented by a fuzzy memory. Our social interactions have a major impact on our mood and it has been proven that a strong social network is one of the strongest defenses against mental disorders like depression. Any perceived damage to this social network on your part as a result of intoxication is certainly a legitimate concern.

The best cure for this is connecting with your friends and acquaintances who were present the night before at some point during the day after. Discussing with them your anxieties about your behavior and whether or not you offended anyone can be a major relief, especially if you learn that you did not actually offend anyone or really even embarrass yourself (too much). If you do find that you did offend someone, the chance to apologize will certainly relieve your anxieties.

On a Final Note

Of course, the best remedy for emotional hangovers is careful prevention. Aside from the emotional duress, getting hangovers is just plain unhealthy. A hangover is a mild form of withdrawal experienced by alcoholics. Consistent high levels of intoxication put your kidneys, liver, and general health at risk. You could also risk a drinking disorder like alcoholism or compulsive binge drinking.


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      astro209 2 years ago

      I've always wondered why I'm extra sensitive the day after a night of drinking. Thank you!

    • amiebutchko profile image

      Amie Butchko 4 years ago from Warwick, NY

      This really is a good article. I think it has a lot of truth to it. An important perspective.