The word “hangxiety” has recently entered my vocabulary. It describes the feelings of anxiety that accompany a hangover after drinking too much on a night out. If you’ve ever woken up with your heart racing or had uncontrollable thoughts about what you did or said the night before, you have probably experienced this phenomenon. Hangxiety can range from irrationally replaying interactions with your crush to more extreme self-loathing like wishing you were a different person. These feelings can sit in the pit of your stomach and nag at you all day, clouding your mental state and making social interactions unpleasant. Another component of hangxiety is regret: obvious doubts like “I shouldn’t have gone out” or, more seriously, “I regret hooking up with that person.”
Regret after a consensual hook-up is real and, I imagine, increasingly prevalent with the rise of hook-up culture. If you are experiencing hook-up hangxiety, try to find the root of your regret. Do you wish it had been a different person? Are you dreading seeing them again? Do you feel guilty about leaving your friends behind? If alcohol wasn't involved, would you have made different choices? Do you feel like you allowed your sexual boundaries to be crossed just because it felt easier in the moment than setting them? Figuring out where your negative feelings stem from can help you avoid them in the future.
While there is no singular remedy to avoid feelings of regret after a hook-up, there are also preventative measures we can try to take. Firstly, try to set intentions before going out. While spontaneity is beautiful, thinking about what you want out of a night can be too. If you want to dance the night away with friends, try to stick to that! If you want to hook up with someone, think about who that person might be and what you might be comfortable engaging in. When we are out with someone, it can be really easy to get carried away and not think about what we actually want, especially when substances are involved. Since a hook-up is often more impersonal and disconnected from emotional intimacy, it can be difficult to communicate our needs and boundaries without prior thought to them. Defining our sexual boundaries beforehand can help us feel more comfortable communicating them in the moment, reducing the risk of post-hook-up regret. Perhaps try to avoid hooking up with someone just for the sake of it or for the plot — that is almost never worth it. Instead, ask yourself whether this is what you wanted for yourself just a few hours prior.
Even if you are intentional about your night, however, the morning after might still be plagued with feelings of regret and a constant replaying of events. So how do you curb the effects of this hangxiety? I’ve found the best way to start moving past feelings of regret is distraction: Get out of bed, eat a bagel sandwich, listen to a new podcast and maybe tackle that big assignment that’s been weighing on you. Once you feel comfortable enough to actually confront your feelings, do it! Talk through them with a friend who understands you. Remind yourself that while your feelings aren’t uncommon, they may still be a result of irrational overthinking. You are not defined by a single decision you made on a night out, and it can be helpful to think about how inconsequential it might feel even a month later. Let’s all try to give ourselves more grace and compassion — we’re all young and figuring things out. Mistakes are inevitable, life moves on and so will you.
If you have questions about sex or relationships that could be discussed in a future column, please submit questions to an anonymous form at https://tinyurl.com/BDHsexcolumn. Anusha Gupta ’25 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and other op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.