Shy people are more likely to experience anxiety during alcohol hangover, according to a recent Personality and Individual Differences study. In turn, getting “hangxiety” was linked to an increased risk of alcoholism for very shy individuals.
Social anxiety disorder is a known risk factor for developing alcoholism because alcohol consumption is used as a coping mechanism by individuals with anxiety. Shyness refers to a mild form of social anxiety and a study led by Beth Marsha sought to examine whether shy individuals were at risk of developing alcohol use disorder in the naturalistic experiment.
In the study, 97 participants were randomly divided into two groups. Participants from both groups were instructed to attend a social gathering of friends. Experimental group participants were allowed to consume alcohol as they please while participants in the control group were to remain sober. Researchers measured participants’ shyness, anxiety, and alcohol use disorder symptoms in all participants at the beginning of the study, in the middle of the experiment, and the day after.
Contrary to researchers’ expectations, alcohol consumption did not relieve much anxiety experienced by shy individuals in a social setting. Instead, shy individuals who consumed alcohol during the experiment were more likely to experience anxiety during alcohol hangover the morning after. Further, among participants dealing with hangover anxiety, highly shy individuals were more likely to exhibit alcohol use disorder symptoms.
“We know that many people drink to ease anxiety felt in social situations, but this research suggests that this might have rebound consequences the next day, with more shy individuals more likely to experience this, sometimes debilitating, aspect of hangover,” said study author Celia Morgan in a news release. “These findings also suggest that hangxiety in turn might be linked to people’s chance of developing a problem with alcohol.”
The documented link between shyness, hangover anxiety, and predisposition to alcoholism may be explained by the withdrawal-relief model maintaining that heavy hangover may stimulate further alcohol use. Because shy individuals are prone to experience more severe hangover symptoms, including increased anxiety, they face a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder. However, the fact that alcohol intoxication did not significantly reduce participants’ levels of anxiety suggests that shy individuals are unlikely to rely on alcohol to feel less anxious in social settings.
The study, “Shyness, alcohol use disorders and ‘hangxiety’: A naturalistic study of social drinkers“, was authored by Beth Marsh, Molly Carlyle, Emily Cartera, Paige Hughes, Sarah McGahey, Will Lawn, Tobias Stevens, Amy McAndrew, and Celia J.A. Morgan.