The CPTSD Hangover

Most people know what a hangover feels like. Headaches, dizziness, sickness, a general feeling of grog. Many claim to have their personal ‘cures’ – mine happens to be orange Tango – and if you’re lucky, you’re usually feeling alright again come the afternoon/evening.

In my experience though, the only thing my trusty Tango can’t cure is a mental health hangover.

Whilst different to your traditional ‘morning after the night before’, the symptoms of a mental health hangover aren’t all that different (in my experience) to the body’s common response to a night on the town.

What is a CPTSD hangover?

I’m talking specifically about Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because it’s what I know, but I’m sure that this is something experienced by people who experience all sorts of mental health conditions. I’ve heard the term ‘adrenaline hangover’ before and I absolutely understand that – I’m talking about something similar here.

An adrenaline hangover is often experienced after you produce a fight or flight response – a panic attack, a trigger, an ‘episode’, extreme stress, whatever – and is basically where you feel like absolute shit afterwards. It’s like if you’re somebody who experiences severe anxiety and you spend the day doing something emotionally tiring or difficult for you and you experience hangover-like symptoms afterwards.

I think a CPTSD hangover is slightly different – for me it is, anyway. Doing something that makes me anxious is quite different to experiencing a CPTSD trigger response.

I feel like more and more people are becoming aware of what PTSD is and how it can affect a person, and even CPTSD which is ever so slightly different. But I’m not sure people are so aware of the CPTSD hangover that I’m talking about here.

Sometimes I can come into contact with a trigger and recover quickly and be OK after a few minutes, and other times it affects me for days. Sometimes it’s just a trigger, a physical and emotional response and then recovery, but other times there’s the trigger, the response, and then feeling like any positivity has been sucked out of you for days after. I’ve known this to last for a week sometimes.

It provides a persistent reminder of your trauma and keeps you in a state of whatever it is your body does to respond to that, which can make it really difficult to return to your day-to-day life after experiencing a trigger.

I’m not sure that people really know about this? PTSD is much more than flashbacks – so I just wrote a post to be like ‘hey, this is a thing’ really.

The only way I know how to describe a ‘CPTSD hangover’ is how dementors are described in Harry Potter.

“They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”



  1. foreverseptember1
    September 30, 2019 / 7:28 pm

    Although I don’t suffer with CPTSD, I do suffer with panic disorder and anxiety. An anxiety hangover is just the absolute worst, or even worse a post panic attack hangover. That horrible groggy feeling you get sucks and you feel like you need a week to just lie in bed and recover, so I can totally relate to this!

    Lucy | Forever September

  2. Julie Hollingsworth
    January 30, 2020 / 4:57 pm

    I totally understand the hangover and I have not been able to describe it. Thank you for putting words to how this feels for us!

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