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What Is the Connection Between Hangovers and Depression?

Depression lasts for an extended period, while a hangover is short-lived.
Some of the symptoms of a hangover and depression may be similar.
A hangover can cause a person to be irritable for hours.
Article Details
  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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Hangovers occur after a person drinks in excess. The symptoms of hangovers and depression can mimic each other, so it is often hard to determine one from the other. Some studies do show, however, that the physiological and psychological affects of a hangover can trigger depression. It is also possible that the changes that occur to an individual’s brain chemistry as a result of heavy drinking and subsequent hangovers can predispose that individual to depression.

Alcohol contains a certain amount of toxins and other chemicals that cause a physical reaction in the human body. It is also a natural diuretic, which means it can cause a person to lose excessive fluids from their body and become dehydrated. If a person consumes more alcohol than the body can effectively metabolize over a certain period of time, he or she will likely experience the physical symptoms of a hangover. Those symptoms, which occur several hours after a person stops drinking can include headaches, dry mouth, sour stomach, and fatigue. A hangover can also cause irritability, anxiety and sleeplessness.

In addition to the physical symptoms, a hangover can cause psychological symptoms as well. These symptoms can include feelings of guilt, sadness, general malaise, lack of focus, and lack of interest in every day activities. The symptoms of a hangover, whether physical or psychological, can generally last up to 24 hours.

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A person who is suffering from depression can also experience symptoms of fatigue, malaise, irritability, and anxiety. Additionally, depression often causes an individual to be unable to focus on various tasks, lose interest in every day activities, and experience feelings of guilt or sadness. Clearly, the physical and psychological symptoms of hangovers and depression are very similar to each other. Due to this fact, it is difficult to determine if the hangover causes the depression or if hangovers and depression just share similar symptoms.

The length of time that the symptoms persist can serve to differentiate between the symptoms of hangovers and depression, and can also help to determine whether a hangover has led to depression. When an individual is clinically depressed, the symptoms persist for an extended period of time. With a hangover, though, the symptoms mimicking depression often fade within a day or so. In some instances, however, the symptoms of depression that are caused by a hangover can persist for weeks and even months. In that event, the hangover can be said to have either triggered the clinical depression or exacerbated an underlying condition.

Drinking alcohol in excess on a regular basis can result in repeated bouts of depressive symptoms, and can lead to depression that persists even when a person is not drinking. Aside from the overlapping symptoms of hangovers and depression, this phenomenon could be linked to the fact that alcohol, when consumed in large quantities on a regular basis, can affect a person's brain chemistry. Some studies suggest that the changes in the chemistry of the brain caused by excessive alcohol consumption and the subsequent hangover, can predispose an individual towards clinical depression.

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Discuss this Article

fify
Post 3

I wonder if the connection between depression and alcohol also go the other way around? Could it be possible that people who are depressed are more likely to drink and experience hangovers?

I think it's possible. When I'm feeling down or tired, I enjoy having a few glasses of wine. It makes me feel better. I think someone who is very depressed might want to drink alcohol for the same reason.

turquoise
Post 2

@ddljohn-- I haven't read any recent studies on the connection between alcohol and depression. But as far as I know, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and a toxin for the body. I don't think it's just the hangover that causes depression or depressive feelings. It's the alcohol. Of course, if you drink in moderation, you will be less likely to experience negative side effects. People who drink heavily and frequently, will have more problems.

I personally try to avoid alcohol because it triggers anxiety and mood swings. I have a low tolerance to alcohol anyway, so even if I think that I am drinking in moderation, I still get sick and have a hangover the next day. So I've basically stopped drinking.

ddljohn
Post 1

If alcohol hangovers cause depression, can this be avoided if there are no hangovers? If I don't drink enough to get a hangover and if I take a supplement to help my body metabolize alcohol, will I still feel depressed?

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