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Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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A panic attack hangover is the state of affairs after a panic attack but before the individual fully recovers from the effects of the episode [1]. Panic attacks are a common occurrence with about 11% of Americans being affected by them every year; the aftereffects can persist for hours, days, or even weeks​ [2]. 

These hangovers are quite incapacitating and can affect a person’s ability to function during the day as they may feel tired, have muscle aches, and be mentally foggy. The phenomenon stems from the fact that the human body tries to regain balance after a panic attack, which is a severe physiological and psychological stress. 

It is crucial to comprehend these types of hangovers and address them as a way of enhancing the standard of living of those suffering from panic disorders.

Panic attack hangover is a term used to refer to the effects of panic attacks that linger after the actual occurrence of the attack. These aftereffects may take hours and sometimes days before one feels normal and may feel drained emotionally as well as physically [1]. 

The idea of a panic attack hangover is a way of explaining the fact that some individuals require some time to get better after a panic attack, as opposed to the onset of the attack’s symptoms.

Origin of Panic Attack Hangover

It is worth noting that ‘panic attack hangover’ is not a term that has any formal medical connotation, but it is used to refer to the state of affairs that follows a panic attack. It is perhaps for this reason that the term post-panic is best defined as something akin to a hangover, for much like the aftermath of a night of heavy drinking, the process can leave one feeling more than a little unwell. 

This term is useful to emphasize the notion that the effects of a panic attack can persist far beyond the duration of the attack itself.

How Does Panic Attack Hangover Feels

During a panic attack, the body experiences increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as shortness of breath due to the fight or flight response. This includes a rush of adrenaline, increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, and increased sensitivity. These reactions are intended to help the body ready itself to confront a threat that is often not real in the first place. 

The symptoms of panic attacks reach their climax in about 10 minutes, and the attacks themselves can take 20-30 minutes, although the recovery process may take much longer [3].

Factors Contributing To Panic Attack Hangover

Several factors can influence the severity and duration of a panic attack hangover, including [1]:

Intensity of the Panic Attack: Severe panic attacks are likely to result in severe hangover effects than mild ones since the body has been stressed more.

Duration of the Panic Attack: Severe and protracted panic attacks may cause the body to feel more drained and under more stress.

Frequency of Panic Attacks: Panic attack victims may find their hangovers worse because they occur more often, and the effects are compounded.

Overall Health: A person’s overall health determines the rate of recovery from a panic attack since it relates to both the physical and psychological well-being of a person.

The after-effects of a panic attack depend on the degree of the hangover, which can be mild to severe and may last for some time as the person moves from one stage to another in the recovery process after a stressful panic attack.

First Few Hours (0-3 Hours)

The first phase of hangover is typically observed within hours after the onset of a panic attack. At this time, people have the worst symptoms of fatigue and confusion, which can make it difficult for them to function. The body comes back to normal from the high adrenaline rush thus one may feel drained physically and emotionally. It is imperative at this time to take a break and ensure that the body and the mind are well-recharged through drinking water.

Short-Term Recovery: The First Few Days

After a panic attack, the severity of the symptoms gradually lessens over the subsequent days, although the effects may be accompanied by fatigue as well as cognitive problems. At this stage, people can still feel tired emotionally, experience mild muscle soreness, and have trouble concentrating. 

People experience fatigue and tiredness because the body is still in the process of healing and regaining strength. During these days, one should take care of themselves and ensure that they are eating well, sleeping enough, and engaging in gentle physical activity.

Prolonged Healing (From Several Days To A Week)

In some cases, people may experience a hangover from the panic attack, and can last for a week or even more. While at this stage, the physical symptoms are likely to have reduced to a great extent, the emotional and mental stress may still be evident. 

People might continue to have occasional episodes of anxiety or concern over a recurrence of the episode, which may slow down their healing process. These symptoms are chronic, and a schedule that includes relaxation and stress management techniques can be beneficial in preventing them from becoming worse.

Long Term Effects (Panic Attack Hangover For Weeks)

There are situations where the impact of a panic attack may last for several weeks at a time. This prolonged phase of recovery is accompanied by fatigue, anxiety, and problems with thinking. Those who have a panic attack hangover for weeks should consult a doctor to be able to get help in addressing these symptoms. 

Continued therapy and support can be vital in the person’s recovery and ensuring that there will be no future attacks.

A panic attack after-effect is something that follows a panic attack and makes people feel weak and sick. The following are some of the reasons that explain why this recovery process takes a long time, which may involve physical and psychological aspects.

Adrenaline Surge and Crash

A primary reason why one may feel the effects of a panic attack hangover is due to the uptick and subsequent drop in adrenaline. In the course of a panic attack, the person’s sympathetic nervous system is triggered and adrenaline is produced in the body. This hormone prepares the body to either confront or escape a threat by: 

Increasing Heart Rate: To increase the blood flow to muscles.

Rapid Breathing: For increasing the supply of oxygen.

Elevating Blood Sugar: For additional supply to the energy centers.

In this case, after the danger has been averted, the body has to be restored to its usual state. This process can make people feel so drained, especially when the adrenaline rush reduces from a high point to the usual rate​ [2].

Physical Exhaustion

Panic attack hangover symptoms manifest themselves in physical ways and one may end up getting physically tired. This is because sensations such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and muscle contraction are physically taxing. Once the attack subsides, the body needs time to recover from this exertion, often resulting in:

Muscle Soreness: Because of long-standing stress.

General Fatigue: From the energy spent during the attack.

This physical exhaustion plays a big part in the aftermath of a hangover after a panic attack​.

Emotional Drain

Panic attacks are not only exhausting physically, but they also have a toll on one’s emotional stability. The level of fear and anxiety that people experience can be overwhelming and can make them emotionally tired. This emotional exhaustion can be as impactful as physical tiredness, leading to: 

Mood Swings: Inability to manage emotions after the state of fear is reached.

Cognitive Fog: Difficulty in focusing or processing information because of emotional weariness.

This emotional toll can further increase the recovery time and people feel sick after the attack for a long time. [1][2].

Hormonal Imbalance

It is also important to note that during a panic attack, several hormones other than adrenaline are released, including cortisol, also referred to as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol may impact other bodily processes and contribute to a longer healing process. High cortisol can lead to:

Sleep Disturbances: Sleep disturbances, which may include insomnia or excessive sleeping, and resulting fatigue.

Increased Anxiety: High cortisol levels further worsen anxiety, making it a cycle of stress.

Restoring these hormone levels may take time, which in turn prolongs the period of a hangover.


Panic attacks may also cause profuse sweating and shortness of breath, which are also signs of dehydration. Dehydration itself can cause a range of symptoms that contribute to the hangover feeling, including: 

Headaches: This could be a result of loss of body fluids and electrolyte imbalances.

Dizziness: It is due to the decreased blood volume and pressure.

Some of these aftereffects can be reduced by maintaining enough water intake, though the dehydration persists to slow recovery [1]

Sleep Disruption

The effects of a panic attack can be very devastating and they can be seen especially in the disruption of the normal sleep pattern. Stress and anxiety hormones also interfere with sleep by making it difficult to fall asleep or to remain asleep. Lack of restful sleep can cause:

Daytime Fatigue: Drowsiness and fatigue at work or school or in any other activities that are carried out during the day.

Irritability: Because they are unable to get restorative sleep.

It can be helpful to try and enhance sleep hygiene but sleep disturbance is one of the main causes of the lingering hangover of a panic attack [2]​.

Psychological Aftermath

Lastly, the effects of a panic attack can be psychologically tiring, and this may lead to a hangover. The fear of another attack and the distress caused by the symptoms can lead to:

Increased Anxiety: Fearing another attack.

Hypervigilance: Living in fear and always anticipating another attack or an act of violence.

This can increase the recovery time and make it difficult for people to regain their normalcy as compared to when they were not stressed​ [1][2].

To manage a panic attack hangover, one has to employ coping mechanisms that deal with the exhaustion of both the physical and the emotional self. Below are some of the best approaches that can be used to prevent and curb the effects.

Rest And Recovery

Adequate Rest: Make sure that you get enough sleep as this will help you to be fresh all the time. Rest is important because it enables the body and the mind to rest after struggling to deal with the stress that is associated with a panic attack. Try to be as regular as possible with sleep and wake times and establish a relaxing pre-sleep ritual to enhance sleep.

Hydration: Make sure you take adequate water to replenish the body fluids that may have been lost. Caffeine consumption should be limited because it can worsen symptoms such as headaches and dizziness while staying hydrated is important.

Gentle Physical Activity

Light Exercise: Perform activities for your body like walking or gentle exercises like doing yoga. Stress hormones are reduced while exercising and endorphins are released to enhance mood and energy levels. Do not engage in any heavy exercises right after you have had a panic attack since it will be very tiring on the body.

Stretching: Integrate some stretching movements to ease muscle contractions. The same applies to stretching which may help alleviate soreness and promote better circulation in a bid to enhance quick recovery.


Balanced Diet: Try to eat a nutritious diet that contains lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and whole grain products. Healthy foods are rich in energy and nutrients that help the body to recover. Do not take caffeine and sugar-containing products as they are known to worsen anxiety symptoms.

Regular Meals: Try to have your meals at the right time to be able to control the sugar levels in your body to prevent mood swings and low energy.

Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness and Meditation: To further lessen the effects of anxiety, try mindfulness meditation to calm your mind. Other methods like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can be very useful.

Grounding Exercises: Take deep breaths and engage in other activities that will help you to focus on the present moment and not get overwhelmed. Other strategies such as the 5-4-3-2-1 method where you try to identify five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste can be helpful.

Emotional Support

Talk to Someone: Talking to a friend or family member can be helpful to feel less burdened. In some cases, it is just enough to share with others how you feel, and the feeling is likely to decrease.

Professional Help: It may also be useful to speak with a therapist or counselor if the hangovers are more frequent or severe. CBT is very helpful in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders [1][2].

Stress Management

Journaling: Try to jot down how you felt and what went through your mind during the attack to help you understand what could have led to the panic attack. Journaling can also assist in keeping track of patterns and noting down what works best in controlling emotions.

Hobbies and Activities: It is recommended to take up some hobbies or activities that one finds interesting and can help in the reduction of stress. It can also help occupy the mind, reducing anxiety and promoting feelings of happiness.

Creating A Safe Environment

Comfortable Space: Make sure that your environment where you will be studying is comfortable and relaxing. Organize your environment, incorporate natural elements such as plants and/or soft lighting, and make a comfortable environment that you can escape to.

Nature Time: Take a walk or a hike in the park or any natural environment. Nature experiences such as taking a walk in the park, tending to the garden, or even just sitting on the lawn are known to have a soothing effect and can decrease stress.

Prevention Strategies

Recognize Triggers: Discern and stay away from activities that may lead to the development of panic attacks. Writing in a diary can also be a useful way to identify what seems to trigger an attack.

Regular Routine: Establish a normal schedule for the day that has time for leisure, exercise, and social interactions. One can avoid stress accumulation and its consequent leading to panic attacks by engaging in a balanced schedule.

1. Choosing Therapy. Panic (Anxiety) Attack Hangover: Symptoms & How to Cope.

2. Well And Good. Can You Experience a Panic Attack or Anxiety Attack ‘Hangover’? Two Psychologists Explain.

3. Simply Psychology. What Is A Panic Attack Hangover?



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