hangover feeling without drinking

Evidence based

Hangover feeling without drinking: What are the causes?

Afterdrink Author Kathy Caldwell
Kathy Caldwell


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Evidence based

Feeling like you have a hangover without drinking?

Well, you’re not alone. Many of the symptoms of a hangover can present without drinking a drop of alcohol. And it’s usually because something else is going on in your body.

Headache, feeling light-headed, nausea, stomach upset and muscle aches are common in lots of medical conditions that can mimic a hangover.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at all the potential causes of feeling hungover without actually having anything to drink the night before.

Table of contents

What causes a hangover feeling without drinking?

Feeling the symptoms of a hangover without drinking is a sign from your body that something is not quite right.

Now, it’s important for us to emphasize that the list of medical conditions that could micic a hangover are endless. That’s why you should always consult your doctor if you’re not feeling well.

With that said, here are some of the most common reasons why people feel like they’re hungover without having any alcohol:

Caffeine withdrawal

If you’re like many of us and have an unhealthy relationship with caffeine, abrupt abstinence from having any can make you feel rough.

The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headache, agitation, and inability to concentrate which are very similar to the key symptoms of a hangover.

Underlying medical condition

If you’re feeling hungover without drinking alcohol for a prolonged period of time, it may be due to an underlying undiagnosed medical condition.

Common conditions include anemia, hypothyroidism (low thyroid) and diabetes. These can all make you feel without energy, sleepy and not your usual self.

There are more serious medical conditions that could also present this way which is beyond the scope of this article. The most important takeaway point is that you should see your doctor for a health check if you’re not feeling well.


As we get older, the chances of us being on medication increases and so do the side-effects that come with it. Certain medications can make you feel you have brain fog and a lack of energy.

The most common include benzodiazepines (colloquially called “sleeping tablets”), beta-blockers and antidepressants. However, there are many more that could make you feel this way.

If you’re not feeling great after you’ve recently started a new medication or a dose change, it’s essential you check in with your physician.


If you wake up feeling hungover without having had any alcohol, you may be coming down with an infection. People can often feel feverish and sweaty after a big night out which can be confused with a hangover. It’s becuase alcohol is known to dysregulate your internal thermostat, so it can mimic the early stages of a hangover.

But common viral and bacterial infections such as the flu can masquerade as a hangover in the beginning stages. That’s why if you have been on a night out and you can’t seem to shake off your 2 day hangover, something else is probably going on.


Low mood and anxiety are often overlooked causes of “hangover type” symptoms. Low energy, lack of interest and anxiety can all be associated with a hangover.

If you have these feelings for more than a few days, it’s always best to see your doctor to get checked out.

Sleep issues

It’s beoming clearer nowadays that sleep has a huge impact on our overall health. Not getting enough high quality sleep has been shown to increase the risk of infection, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer!

Sleep is an often neglected aspect of our general health and it may be time to make some changes if you know you are not getting enough it.


Dehydration is one of the main causes of a hangover. It causes symptoms such as feeling light-headed, inability to think straight and dry mouth.

You don’t have to drink to be dehydrated of course. If you’ve been doing a lot of exercise lately, travelling or been over-exerting yourself at work, you can often forget to drink enough water.


Believe it or not, pregnancy can cause hangover-like symptoms without drinking any alcohol. There are countless cases of women going to see their doctor feeling run down, with no energy and nauseous to find out they are actually pregnant!

In fact, it’s so common that most emergency departments do pregnancy tests on women of childbearing age who present feeling unwell.

Furthermore, during the first trimester of pregnancy, hormonal and physiological changes cause blood pressure to drop. In addition, circulating blood volume increases which causes “physiological anemia” from dilution.

As a result, pregnant women commonly feel more tired than usual which can mimic having a hangover without drinking.

Causes of feeling drunk without drinking

On the other end of a spectrum, some people may feel drunk without having drunk any alcohol. Now, this is a different problem altogether.

Middle and inner ear problems such as labyrinthitis and benign positional vertigo can make you to feel dizzy and unsteady. It can also be a sign of very serious underlying medical conditions like a cerebellar stroke.

These symptoms should not be ignored and requires medical attention immediately to rule out dangerous causes.

Feeling drunk without having had any alcohol can be a sign of a serious underlying medical problem that requires immediate medical attention via your local emergency department.

Constant hangover feeling without drinking – Final words

It’s really important not to ignore your body if you are feeling like you have hangover symptoms without drinking any alcohol because it means your body is trying to communicate that something is not right.

It’s crucial that you go to see your doctor for examination and assessment to make sure nothing else is going on.

We’ve walked you through some potential causes, however, it’s important to mention this is a very brief overview.

Feeling like you’re hungover without drinking should always prompt you to seek medical advice for further assessment.

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