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Hangovers and feeling down

Alcohol affects your body and brain. Hangovers affect different people in different ways.

The fear

Some people call the effects of alcohol the next day 'the fear'. This is when you feel a general anxious feeling of dread.

Common effects of alcohol on your body and brain include:

  • headache - from dehydration and pressure from the widening of your blood vessels
  • tiredness - alcohol interferes with your sleep patterns
  • sensitivity to light
  • acetaldehyde - a chemical produced in your body when alcohol is broken down. This makes the nervous system extra sensitive
  • thirst - alcohol makes you lose fluid from your body, this can be as much as 4 times as much fluid as you take in
  • trembling - due to low blood sugar
  • sickness - alcohol increases the amount of acid in your stomach

Morning-after feelings

Feeling down or depressed

Alcohol affects the brain’s happiness chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

This may make you feel good and happy while you are drinking. But when the effect has worn off, you can feel anxious, down or depressed.


While you are drunk your sense of right and wrong and your judgement may not work so well.

This can lead to behaviours that you may regret. You may wish you could turn back the clock and avoid some of the consequences of your actions.

Guilt and shame

Alcohol reduces your inhibitions. When you are drunk, you may do things that you would be unlikely to do when you are sober.

It can be hard to face up to or deal with the consequences of embarrassing behaviour when we sober up.

You may feel bad that you got drunk. You may have done something silly or spent too much money. You may have let someone down because of your drinking.

Relationship worries

You may be worried that something you did has harmed your relationship with a friend or loved one.

You may have said or done something you regret.

Feeling unable to function

It can take your body hours to get back to normal after heavy drinking.

Alcohol also affects your sleep, so even if you are not sick, you will probably be feeling very tired.

You may:

  • have to cancel plans or miss commitments
  • feel annoyed that you wasted your day
  • find it hard to meet your other responsibilities

Tips for drinking less

Non-urgent advice: Get help with problem alcohol use

Freephone 1800 459 459 for confidential advice

Page last reviewed: 12 September 2022
Next review due: 12 September 2025