Under the Hood

What Is Hangxiety? Your Personality Indicates Your Risk For It

Now that science has given us the lowdown on what it means to feel "hangry," get ready to understand what a "hangxiety" is. In a new study, researchers from University College London suggest that shy or introverted people are at higher risk of experiencing it. 

First, take a moment to think about one of the biggest reasons why people drink alcohol. Simply put, what effect does the beverage have that draws so many of us in? 

Alcohol leaves a strong impact on the brain, activating the reward system and releasing dopamine. As a result, your stress levels, inhibitions, and negative feelings tend to reduce significantly. In simpler language, we love the "buzz" we get from our favorite drink when we want to loosen up.

People who experience social anxiety may see more of a difference than others. When they consume alcohol in relevant situations, these temporary effects can help them relax and be a lot more sociable than they usually are. The key word here is "temporary," which brings us to the morning after.

Everyone knows the nausea, the pounding headache, the tiredness, and other physical symptoms that come with a hangover. But the new study suggests that shy drinkers face the worst of the emotional symptoms — namely, a significant increase in anxiety during their hangover, also known as hangxiety.

"This is a characteristic of social anxiety where people have characteristic rumination or dwelling after a social event," Beth Marsh, first author of the study, told Inverse. "Almost really re-running the experience in their mind with the kind of negative bias that comes from being shy or socially anxious."

Having repetitive negative thoughts like ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have said that,’ or ‘Oh, that made me look stupid,’ are examples of post-event processing. While people with a social anxiety disorder (SAD) already experience this more than others, Marsh believes that alcohol may worsen it.

This is because drinking also affects our memory, making it hard to remember how certain events happened or whether they happened at all. So when recalling the night before during a hangover, an anxious mind has a tendency to fill up the gaps in their memory with negative things.

This could lead to an unhealthy cycle of alcohol dependency which could become dangerous over time. In fact, past research has suggested that 28 percent of people diagnosed with SAD also suffer from alcohol use disorder.

While more research is needed to validate what  researchers speculate, these findings can spark a much-needed conversation about the pressure to be extroverted.

"It's about accepting being shy or an introvert," Celia Morgan, professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter who designed the study, told VICE. "This might help transition people away from heavy alcohol use. It's a positive trait. It's okay to be quiet."