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​Expert Explains Why You Get ‘The Fear’ After A Big Night Out Drinking

Jess Hardiman

| Last updated 

​Expert Explains Why You Get ‘The Fear’ After A Big Night Out Drinking

It's easy to get a little bit giddy during the festive period, when you'll no doubt find yourself spiralling into a hot mess of Christmas parties, Champagne breakfasts and shots of Baileys every five minutes.

But with all that excitement also comes a whole sackful of downsides. Along with a sore head, a mouth drier than the Sahara and a cripplingly low bank balance, you may also find that you're struck down by The Fear.

For the uninitiated, The Fear is the feeling many of us get the morning after a big night on the booze. While people react differently, generally it involves an overwhelming sensation of regret, shame and anxiety. Sometimes you don't even know why you suddenly feel so on edge.

"What the hell did I do last night? Why did I wake up with one shoe? Why do I have a selfie with Dave from finance? Have I lost an ACTUAL TOOTH?"

That sort of thing.

The Mad Men Christmas party looks fun, but I'll bet there were some regrets the next day. Credit: AMC
The Mad Men Christmas party looks fun, but I'll bet there were some regrets the next day. Credit: AMC

Well, at least if you get The Fear (or 'Beer Fear', to some people) you can sleep a little easier knowing you aren't alone; not only is it surprisingly common, there's also a scientific reason behind it.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, Liz Burns, a lecturer of Mental Health Nursing at Salford University with a specialism in alcohol services, explained: "Feeling anxious the next day is down to the interaction of chemical compound glutamate.

"We may feel fearful because we can't remember everything that happened the night before; it's not at the forefront of the mind.

"We may be able to piece together moments, and memories can sometimes come back to us when we're stimulated by something."

When we drink, Burns said, our inhibitions are often 'turned off', which may make us feel relaxed and confident, but also potentially a bit clumsy.

As brain processes slow down, our memory can also become impaired, which doesn't help when we're trying to piece together the night before in the morning.

The liver works hard to break down and metabolise alcohol, but can only do so at the rate of one unit per hour, so if you're drinking more than this then your blood alcohol level increases.

Burns continued: "When blood alcohol levels increase with the more we drink, the more 'switching off effect' we experience.

"The more we drink, the faster our liver has to work to break down the alcohol and when it exceeds this rate, that is when we become intoxicated.

"But drinking so much in a single episode can be very dangerous.

"It can result in alcohol poisoning and in some instances, the body can become unconscious."

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

Then there's also the fact that a night on the booze doesn't always lead to the best night's sleep, which isn't exactly great for your mental wellbeing.

"Someone may think they slept because they had their eyes shut, but the liver is working overnight to break down the alcohol so it's not a restful sleep and affects the quality," Burns said.

"In the longer term, mood problems may occur as people might drink to feel better - but it's a vicious cycle.

"Feelings of anxiety may initially feel better with drink.

"Others may have a 'night cap' to send them off to sleep, but it'll actually cause disruption and they'll be awake earlier."

Burns reckons the best thing you can do to avoid The Fear is to go for 'low-risk drinking' over binge-drinking, which can be followed by using the limit of 14 units per week, spread out across the course of seven days.

I know it's party season and all, but just make sure you're drinking responsibly out there. After all, you don't want to wake up and find yourself at the centre of all the office gossip...

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: World News, News, Food And Drink, Alcohol

Jess Hardiman
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