People tend to drink alcohol to overcome shyness on social gatherings, but a new study found that its effects could be more debilitating afterward.
Researchers from the University College London and the University of Exeter tested 100 shy or very shy social drinkers to determine changes in anxiety levels. They found that anxiety is slightly decreased in highly shy people who drank about six units of alcohol.
Drinking alcohol decreases anxiety at the moment, but the relaxation effect wears off a day after. Highly shy individuals are likely to experience a state of "hangxiety," where anxiety levels increase after alcohol consumption.
"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 co-author Prof. Celia Morgan from the University of Exeter.
Morgan added that drinking alcohol to ease anxiety could eventually lead to health problems like alcohol use disorder or AUD. Accepting that shyness is a positive trait could help the individual prevent or overcome drinking problems.
"This study suggests anxiety during hangover is linked to AUD symptoms in highly-shy individuals, providing a potential marker for increased AUD risk, which could inform prevention and treatment," the study authors reported.
AUD or simply called a severe drinking problem is a chronic relapsing brain disorder that is characterized by compulsive alcohol intake and expression of negative emotions or loss of control in the absence of alcohol.
Approximately 16 million American adults have AUD, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. Out of this number, 9.8 million are men and 5.3 million are women. Some 623,000 teens ages 12 to 17 years have AUD.
AUD onset can often start at the age of 20s and 30s, but some people have a genetic predisposition that places them at greater risk of developing this disease.
A family history of alcoholics, depression and other mental health problems, and emotional trauma could trigger AUD. People who start drinking at an early age are also likely to abuse alcohol during their adult years.