Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Anxiety and Dehydration

Before I continue my life's story, please allow me to expound the bit on an earlier post.

Keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and that none of what I write here is medical advice, but I hope I can impart to you some knowledge that may help you in your struggle against anxiety or panic attacks.

I made a post in February entitled Anxiety and Alcohol.  In that post I explained the generalities of what I experienced earlier in my life while using alcohol as a crutch to deal with anxiety and panic attacks.

One of the main issues was that I was experiencing was anxiety the morning after consuming any considerable amount of alcohol. As a rule, this would include almost any morning.

Historically, any sensations that I considered a “hangover" would be run-of-the-mill headache, nausea, general jitters, and the like. Eventually, though, I began to experience feelings that were pure anxiety that would often trigger panic attacks.

After dealing with this phenomenon for several years, I had an acquaintance that mentioned to me that she experienced anxiety during hangover. At the time that this was brought up I was not usually experiencing anxiety during hangover's, but I did remember when I had a problem with that.

Fast forward...Some 10 years later, after experiencing a period of relative lack of anxiety, I began to have panic attacks while experiencing a hangover. I went through a period of about six weeks where I experienced may be three panic attacks a week and general anxiety almost daily. As it happens, I was also drinking a considerable amount every evening. I was not necessarily getting "drunk" but I was consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol.

As I struggled to deal with my situation, I recalled my friends words. I realize that I was now experiencing what she was experiencing at the time.

Upon looking into the subject of hangovers, I discovered that hangovers are not very well understood, scientifically. They are, however, fairly well understood as a practical matter.

There are several imbalances in one's body that make up the whole of the hangover, but one of the biggest players is dehydration.

Now, as someone who has used alcohol not only as a crutch, but also as a party favor, I believe I can give you some insight on what it can do to your body.

Upon reading some material about alcohols affect on the body, I discovered quite a bit of information about dehydration. This hit home with me, because I knew how much dehydration I have experienced in the past while drinking alcohol.

Anyone who has consumed two beers and urinated out four beers in their first hour or two of drinking knows what I'm talking about. Alcohol tends to make your kidneys work on overdrive.

By the time you go to bed you've probably not had any real fluids for hours, but you've had plenty of alcohol this makes your system shed water right before you go to sleep. This, in turn, sets you up for considerable dehydration upon awakening.

Here is where it gets interesting. Dehydration is a very common contributor to anxiety.

What a perfectly inconvenient combination we have here. A person suffering from anxiety or panic attacks drinks alcohol in an attempt to get some relief. In turn, they cause themselves more anxiety and possibly another panic attack as a result of their alcohol consumption.

So, here is what you do not want to hear. Alcohol consumption is likely going to cause you more grief than relief.

Here is something that may be easier to digest. After you get a handle on mitigating your alcohol consumption, one of the easiest things you can do to help alleviate anxiety and panic attacks is to consume more water.

Many people nowadays are chronically dehydrated. This is not even taking into account the use of alcohol. In fact, roughly a third of the population is inclined to misinterpret thirst for hunger.

Since water plays such a major part in our bodies ability to function, it's not surprising that lack of water in our system would cause issues.

It seems almost too simple to suggest that drinking more water could have a positive effect on one's anxiety or panic attacks, but, indeed, it does play a significant role.

If you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, I urge you to make an effort to consume more water during your day. This is not a cure-all, but it can definitely play a part in mitigating the frequency and severity of panic attacks and anxiety.  Not to mention, it's just plain good for you. 

I also urge you to check out Panic Away for a permanent  solution to panic attacks and anxiety.



  1. Chris, this is a very interesting story and is the second time I've now heard of the correlation between anxiety and dehydration. I have been suffering anxiety for a few months now AND I'm chronically dehydrated. I also drink 2 glasses of red wine a day to help alleviate these symptoms. How long does it take to get the body's fluid levels up to the level where the anxiety starts to get more manageable? Thanks so much for sharing this story....

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  3. Hi Chris, I always suffered with terrible hangovers, but they weren't like everybody else's hangovers. I used feel on the edge all the time and struggled to have confidence even to speak. I felt itchy and generally a bit 'sketchy' I 'd spend the day eating sugary food convinced that what I was experiencing a regular hangover. I first realised it was anxiety caused by the hangover when I took a diazepam and suddenly felt ok. I have been looking into the effects of dehydration on anxiety as recently I have been feeling stressed for no apparent reason. I had a glass of water simply because I had no milk for tea, and hey presto, I was fine! Impending doom is no more! I have had 40 hours of psychotherapy over the last year as I had not been diagnosis post-traumatic stress disorder for over 20years.I have built up an abundance of coping strategies. This was why I was so confused about feeling the way I have recently. I have never found alcohol a pleasant experience and it is the dehydration I'm sensitive to, not the alcohol itself. It would be interesting to find out how many people experience this but also mistake it for a hangover.