It's not just you — when your head is pounding with the remnants of last night's alcohol-soaked adventures, the people around you can suddenly seem 100% more annoying. Of course, when you're already miserable with a hangover, being around other people can make it even worse.
George F. Koob, PhD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), says that a hangover is essentially "alcohol withdrawal syndrome," and going through withdrawal isn't fun.
"When you drink, you feel good, you're releasing neurotransmitters that make you feel good and suppressing neurotransmitters that make you feel bad," he says. "When the alcohol wears off, you’re dipping your pleasure transmitters and increasing your stress transmitters."
As a result, you can get irritable and cranky. After all, you're probably dehydrated, your stomach feels funny, and you're likely in some form of pain.
"Another thing that gets disrupted is sleep," Dr. Koob says. "People will drink too much, and it’ll help them sleep and they’ll go to sleep right away, but four hours later you wake up, often because you have to go to the bathroom."
And once you're awake, he says, it can be hard to go back to sleep, because your brain is now in hyperactive mode — which, oddly enough, occurs as a result of your brain getting out of the less active mode that comes with drinking alcohol.
All of this, clearly, is not a recipe for your cheeriest self. Hence, everyone seems extra annoying when you're hungover.
When the alcohol wears off, you’re dipping your pleasure transmitters and increasing your stress transmitters.
George F. Koob, PhD
Physical symptoms aside, Dr. Koob says that feeling embarrassed or sensitive about hangovers can also make you more of a grouch around other people. After all, dealing with a massive headache can be even more painful when everyone starts asking why you look so ill and you're not exactly in the mood to share.
The good news? More than likely, everyone in your life didn't just suddenly become the worst. So, the best way to get over feeling annoyed is to start treating the physical symptoms of your hangover. Unfortunately, there isn't much proof that anything will cure your hangover (though if you need some unofficial advice, we have your back).
"The best solution for a hangover is not to drink so much," Dr. Koob says. "And the second best solution is that if you do drink, stay very hydrated, and during the next day, continue to hydrate yourself. If you can manage, get up and get some exercise, and try to get some food in your stomach."
If your stomach is still queasy, he recommends bland foods that will be mild on your stomach, like bananas, rice, toast, or apples. You might still have to wait it out for your hangover to get better, but hopefully some of those remedies will help make it easier to deal with being around other people.
And if they don't? You may just have to fake it 'til you make it, as cliché as that sounds.
"You feel the feelings you project," Dr. Koob says. "Once you get over the barrier of feeling miserable, if you can project that you're feeling good, then you will feel good because you'll get good responses from other people."