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Are Emotional Hangovers Real?

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by Conscious Reminder

“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”

                                                        – Oscar Wilde

Contrary to popular belief alcohol is far from being the only thing that could trigger a hangover. Often, an emotional experience also leads one to physiological and internal brain states that remain even after the event may have passed. Pretty much like a normal hangover, the emotional hangover influences all decisions that we take. Starting from life decisions to pizza choices.

So How Do You Prove that Emotional Hangovers exist?

“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind,'” said study author Lila Davachi in a news release. “These findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”

She and her team had participants come into the lab and view two sets of images spaced about 10 to 30 minutes apart. One set was from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS), which is a standard set of images used in studies to elicit emotional reactions. The other set was of neutral (non-emotional) images. Some of the participants viewed non-emotional images first; others viewed the emotional ones first. Their arousal level was measured by both skin conductance and by looking at brain function via fMRI. After another six hours, they took memory tests to see how many of the images they could recall.

It turned out that the people who’d viewed the emotional images first were better at recalling the second group of images (the non-emotional images), compared to people in the other group. It seems that emotionality can make subsequent events more likely to be remembered. “We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” says Davachi.

The results were mirrored in what was happening in the participants’ brains, too. Regions that were active in response to the emotional images were still active 20-30 minutes later, when the second set of images was presented. This implies that the ways in which the brain is charged by seeing emotional images persist and set the stage for subsequent memories to form. And they seem to form more crisply as a result. “These results indicate that neural measures of an emotional experience can persist in time and bias how new, unrelated information is encoded and recollected,” the authors write in their paper. The researchers say this is because we can experience a “carry-over” of feeling emotional.

Some Effective Ways to Get Over Emotional Hangover

Now that we have quite efficiently established that emotional hangover is a real thing and extremely disturbing at that, here are a few ways to tackle it.

  • Sleep is the best cure : As is the solution with any type of hangover, sleeping could cure any type of hangover. Sleep helps the mind to refresh and therefore is possibly the best cure in case of an emotional hangover.
  • Take a shower. You will be surprised at how much a nice long shower could cleanse your body and refresh your soul.
  • Go on a binge eating spree. The best way to take your mind off things is to hog on to all sorts of deliciously greasy fast food.
  • Go jogging. Exercise is a great way to take your mind of things and a bit of fresh air is a great way to beat down those stress levels.

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