Exploring the emotional experiences of alcohol hangover syndrome in healthy UK-based adults

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Alcohol hangover syndrome (AHS) is a highly heterogenous state encompassing a range of physiological and psychological symptoms. The syndrome is experienced regularly among alcohol consumers and remains poorly understood. The present study sought to gain insight into whether certain emotions were tied to AHS and how these emotions were experienced. Twenty participants took part, 14 female and 6 male, aged 21 to 39 years. Inductive thematic analysis of semi structured interview data produced four themes; ‘The Tyranny of the Shoulds’, ‘Bias and the Persistence of Memory’, ‘Staring into the Void’, and ‘Emotive behavioral response’. The four themes demonstrate the complexity of emotional experiences associated with AHS and account for concurrent constructs including cognition, mood, and behavior. Guilt, shame, dread, anger, and regret were all commonly experienced, with rumination, negative interpretation bias, nostalgia, self-flagellation, isolation and camaraderie being essential in how these emotions were described by participants. The study adds greater understanding of the diversity of emotions that can be experienced during AHS, with important implications for the wellbeing of those who suffer most from the state. It is suggested that self-help techniques targeting cognitions could be explored to help alleviate aspects of the negative emotions experienced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-260
Number of pages13
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention and Policy
Issue number3
Early online date27 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2020


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