This isn't a column about drinking more water when you're drunk. Nor will I be recommending that you only stick to one kind of liquor or should take a couple of paracetamol tablets before you fall asleep.

No, this is a column about the inevitable self-loathing that we all feel when we're hungover.

You know the feeling: tired, seedy, shameful, depressed. You spend hours asking yourself "why did I do that?" and recovering your bad decisions.



What's behind all this self-hatred, and why do we keep putting ourselves through such misery?

Alcohol is a wonderful anti-inhibitor. It makes us more confident and others more likable. A toxin, alcohol (in excess) also leaves you in a vulnerable emotional state after being purged from your body.

Kingsley Amis, 20th Century English writer and self-proclaimed drunk, called this the "metaphysical hangover". He described it as a compound of depression or sadness, anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure, and fear of the future. It leads us to think the worst of ourselves, despite the evidence otherwise that we later comprehend when the hangover wears off.

The science is unclear as to why hungover people often find themselves in this compromised emotional place the next day. Alcohol is a chemical depressant, however, and can exacerbate negative feelings that were present before you started drinking.


For example, if you're upset about something in life and turn to alcohol to make you feel better for a few hours, a disastrous come-down is unavoidable. Your problems don't go away, you merely numb them for a while. Upon feeling the physical pain of a hangover (the headaches, upset stomach, and so on) the metaphysical hangover clouds over you. In response to feeling in physical anguish, your brain is agitated and thus clings onto whatever emotional negativity it can.

For some reason, this self-loathing is forgotten within a day or so. While we say to ourselves, "I'm never drinking again" during the first 12 hours of a hangover, we do it again eventually, of course. We're repeat offenders: never able to use hindsight and always thinking we'll avoid the same punishment the next time.

There are ways around the metaphysical hangover. Namely, there's not drinking, or not drinking so much. But let us acknowledge reality: we're all human and will get a little "too loose" eventually.

It's more important to stay away from alcohol when you're already feeling sad or depressed about something. I try to drink when I feel good to make me feel better, rather than to take bad feelings away. Because they seem to come back fourfold.


As for a solution after the fact, Kingsley Amis provides us with a bit of advice: "start telling yourself you have a hangover", he writes in his book Everyday Drinking. This, essentially, is a form of mindfulness that helps you accept what has happened and not try to change it.

"You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a sh*t you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is," Amis continued. "And there is no use crying over spilt milk."