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Anxiety Hangover After A Panic Attack

By Claire The Millennial Londoner


Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This blog is purely for informational purposes compiled from personal experience and reputable sources. If you require any health advice please speak to a medical specialist. This blog also contains affiliate links that allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you.


If you have ever had an anxiety or panic attack you'll know how hard it is to just shake off those feelings hours or even days after the attack.

You could wake up one day feeling a little off and not be able to pinpoint why. Then outta nowhere you feel lightheaded, nauseous and breathless but can't understand why. So you find yourself rethinking everything you've done up until this moment hoping that you can understand what's wrong with you by which point your symptoms have intensified.

Now you're fully panicking, the world is coming to an end and you are none the wiser why this is happening. You realise that it's most likely anxiety because your symptoms are starting to dissipate and the world is no longer ending... Intense I know but this is how it can feel when anxiety hits you out of nowhere.

After the panic attack subsides you find yourself still feeling off but not knowing why possibly even worried about those symptoms arising again (I'll make a full post on Panic Disorder and how if left untreated it can lead to Agoraphobia). So why if I'm not having an anxiety or panic attack do I still feel unwell? Maybe I am sick? You might even start googling your symptoms only to self-diagnose yourself with every illness going.

The truth is you're most likely experiencing high levels of anxiety in the aftermath of a panic attack also known as an "Anxiety Hangover". It can zap your energy leaving you exhausted, dehydrated, nauseated, jittery or run down. The impact anxiety has on our body is INCREDIBLE depending on how you look at it. If you're mid panic attack then you won't agree with me but in hindsight, it's our body protecting us and we need it to survive.

What Is An Anxiety Hangover In A Nutshell?

Although it's not an official medical term most anxiety sufferers refer to the aftermath of a panic or anxiety attack as an anxiety hangover.

Your anxiety will fluctuate after the attack so you'll feel a little discombobulated so that lingering feeling is what people compare to a hangover. This isn't to be confused with hangover related anxiety that people may experience after drinking. An anxiety hangover is simply the way you feel once the anxiety episode subsides. It can leave you feeling dehydrated and tired, you may have stomach upset or still feel on edge.

What happens to your body during an anxiety/ panic attack?

Let's start from the beginning...

Anxiety and panic attacks have different triggers, an anxiety attack usually has an external trigger e.g rodents, blood, heights etc while panic attacks will start from an internal trigger e.g fear of fainting in public, feeling anxious in public or simply out of nowhere.

In our brains, we have something called an Amygdala which is basically our very own alarm system that protects us from danger. Our Amygdala will process information and then send a signal to our hypothalamus (our body's hormone control centre) which will then activate our sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response).

Once our fight or flight response is activated you will feel;

  • Breathlessness - As a result of your increased heartrate to prepare your body to fight off the threat.

  • Dry Mouth - Saliva glands reduce producing saliva while the digestive system is paused

  • Pale Skin - Our blood rushes to our muscles leaving the surface areas of our body looking pale and flushed

  • Sweating - Your temperature will rise so your body will sweat to cool you down

  • Dizziness - Hyperventilating will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood which will make you feel lightheaded or faint.

  • Nausea - Neurotransmitters entering the digestive tract can cause stomach problems including nausea

  • Stomach Problems - Digestion is paused causing digestion issues and muscle tension can cause acid to rise into your oesophagus

The Aftermath

When you look at the physiology of anxiety it's clear that it impacts nearly every part of your body which in the aftermath of an attack can leave you feeling exhausted and unwell. It's these symptoms that cause a person to feel like they are experiencing a hangover.


Digestion is essentially put on the back burner while your body prioritises the most important functions needed to get out of danger. As you can imagine this will cause chaos in your digestive system which is why a lot of people that have anxiety disorders tend to also have stomach issues.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

One of the most common digestive disorders you can develop is irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, not to be confused with irritable bowel disease. IBS can be unpleasant, the symptoms can really disrupt your daily life and attacks can happen out of the blue. Identifying those triggers and trying the low fodmap diet are a couple of ways you can ease your IBS.

Acid Reflux

Another digestive issue you could develop is acid reflux, this is when stomach acid is pushed up into your oesophagus. The symptoms can be really unpleasant and impact your quality of life if you experience them frequently. Similar to IBS figuring out foods that trigger the reflux will help you alleviate the symptoms.


Nausea is one of the main symptoms you'll experience with anxiety and even in the aftermath of an attack, you'll still get that nauseous feeling. The reason for nausea can be because you haven't eaten (some people find it hard to eat when they're feeling anxious) or because your neurotransmitters have entered your digestion tract like an unwanted house guest. Like the other symptoms, this can linger on for a few hours or even days after a heightened state of anxiety.

Aches and Pains

Anxiety can wreak havoc on your muscles after a panic attack. The high levels of adrenaline cause your muscles to tense up and possibly even twitch. When your body is preparing to fight off a potential threat your body will need muscle power which is why they might start feeling fatigued after a panic attack.

Body Aches

During a panic the muscles will become tense and it's this strain on your muscles leave them feeling sore or weak once the panic attack subsides. The aches feel similar to having an intense workout at the gym although, at the end of a gym session you will feel a little more elevated whereas a panic attack will leave you feeling drained.

Muscle Twitching

Similar to body aches your muscles may start twitching as a result of adrenaline and hyperventilating. From personal experience it's a weird feeling having your arm twitch involuntarily like you have a heartbeat in your biceps. It won't harm you it's simply your muscles overworking from having so much adrenaline coursing through them.

Jaw Pain

Having jaw pain is another after effect of having a panic attack. Whether you're anxious or having a full-blown panic attack it can take a toll on your jaw. Clenching your jaw will be the reason for this toothache. I know this feeling all too well, I'm completely unaware I'm clenching my jaw until I wake up with tooth ache the next day. The tooth ache isn't like having a tooth extracted but it's a kind of dull feeling that worsens when you chew.


Fatigue is another symptom you'll likely experience after a panic attack. Having fatigue can make daily tasks, work and life harder. It can leave you feeling drained and ready to hibernate but this isn't likely to happen if you're in the middle of class or your boss needs you to hit that important deadline. The fight or flight response will zap your body of all the energy you have left, leaving you feeling exhausted.


Dehydration is another symptom you can experience in the aftermath of a panic attack. It's not uncommon to be dehydrated after sweating profusely especially if you don't drink your daily water intake. Not to mention your mouth will feel drier than the Sahara Desert from the reduction in saliva produced. The dry mouth sensation isn't necessarily dehydration but it will leave you feeling parched for sure. Our bodies produce sweat during a heightened state of anxiety to cool ourselves down and it's that overproduction of sweat that can leave you feeling dehydrated.

This leads me on to my next point...

Sweating and Chills

Sweating and having chills is another post-panic attack symptom that can leave you feeling dehydrated and cold. The fight or flight response will heat your body up from adrenaline so your body will automatically start sweating to cool your body back down.

It's a bizarre feeling that will leave you questioning if you're hot or you're cold (Now I get what Katy Perry meant).

While your body is coming down from a high state of anxiety you'll most likely still be sweaty and if you're out in the open air that can make you feel chilly. Not to mention your blood flow is sent to your muscles and organs leaving the surface of your skin looking pale and feeling cold. If like me you have bad circulation you'll know that having cold hands and feet can make your whole body feel cold. Having bad circulation while hyperventilating will leave your hands and feet feeling cold, numb and tingley.


When you look at the list of symptoms you experience in the aftermath of a panic attack you can understand why people call it an "Anxiety Hangover". It can last days after your anxiety episode which can lead people to believe they have a serious health condition. Treating the symptoms can alleviate them but please consult a medical professional before doing so.

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