Therapy hangover, anyone else? Any tips for managing them?

Simply Simon

I’ll take a hangover from substance abuse over a therapy or stress/PTSD “episode”/meltdown any time, please.

My last and dearly beloved T would work with me for 2+ hours with a 50-minute slot and charge every other week. I have no complaints about the free/50%+ off therapy, but she kicked my ass, and I’d almost invariably drive home swearing I wouldn’t go back and calling her a f*cking [use your imagination: I did, colorfully].

Then I was screwed for 24-72 hours regarding sleep, eating, energy, etc. in curiously variable ways. I too don’t know how to mitigate this except to use my coping tools (training and exercising my dog/s, feeding myself a constant stream of media, cooking elaborately) and try to minimize any obligations ahead of time.

In all fairness to @Friday, most of us are toast vs an indignant house cat. Give me powerful breed working dogs any day. Cats hand me my ass without even giving me the satisfaction of looking mildly bothered by the tussle...


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The biggest difference for me during the pandemic is I do not have to get up, ride my bike, and be sort of dissociative states and fight with the traffic. I honestly can say I am big time contemplating never going back to in person therapy where I have to move about after especially a heavy session. Now I can sit back a bit after I hang up the phone and then casually get up and walk my dog. I remember couple years ago, taking 2hrs nap cause I felt so stirred after each session. It explains why I used to take so much time off. Now that I am at home, I hardly cancel a session. Thank you for giving it a name "therapy hangover"! You are not alone!


Nope, no real handle on this at all. Although that has to be qualified. It started as hangover. I just learned to prepare and have nothing planned for the next couple days after therapy.
Then we found trauma. The hangover changed some. First time I thought things are good, I feel pretty good for the day after therapy. Felt good the next day too. But lo on day 3 the gods of PTSD sent forth rebound+ and thus was I laid low for three days. So now its, respect the days right after therapy and beware of the rebound. It just keeps getting better and better...🙄 . Thats all I got. It's like knowing the thunderstorm is coming and there's no weather radar. You know it's coming but not how big it is, how long it will last, or when it will get there. Prepare, then ride it out.

More than any other time, during hangover, I watch for things to bring to my T next session. If weird stuff surfaces it may have ties to something else or something we worked on. I always see it as the therapy working and changing things and "stuff" shaking loose I need to deal with.


The only way I can avoid a therapy hangover is by falling into the ocean or getting into a bar fight / street fight (or similar) immediately after. Explosive full-body instinctive reactions + massive expension of energy. The ocean I’m reacting to the waves/currents/tides, in a fight I’m reacting to the other person. By “or similar”? I don’t mean downgraded, but in parallel. For downgraded things? Like swimming in a pool, or meeting up with a sparring partner? I’ll still have a therapy hangover... but it IS lessened. In both duration & intensity. It’s ALSO lessened to exactly the same degree if I do those things before therapy. Which just makes more sense to me. Because I can double up if need be, or crash, if “I’m done now.” Cheque please. Faceplant. Win/win.

Since I’m in the fawking cold north, with a 15 minute survival time in the sea... swimming is out. And my fighting days might not be over, but as I am NOT in keen enough condition to not end up in the hospital (an angry 4yo -or indignant house cat- could prolly kick my ass these days)... those (and most similar activities) are out. At least for now.

So my best secondary line of defense is to go for a swim in a pool, or check a scull out of the boathouse, and go blow off a bunch of stress beforehand... and eat/sleep as soon as, after.

((The best food is -unsurprisingly- comfort food! There’s a vegan cafe with the BEST French fries (or mac’n’cheese if I’m up to using a fork, not a guarantee), a sushi place, & a whiskey bar all within a few blocks of where I meet my therapist. My last therapist was practically across the street from a VooDoo Doughnuts. The sheer amount of weight I lose in therapy? With any/all of those things a regular part of my diet? Reeeeeeally speaks to how much energy anxiety/stress burns. Because, nope! I don’t always make it to the pool/boathouse beforehand. Or even often, if I’m using the panic of being late to get to therapy by the skin of my teeth. Just because it’s my best secondary line of defense, doesn’t mean it’s as routine as I’d like.))
I agree with you Friday. I made therapy day the day I would stop and pick out something special to eat on the way home or make for supper. Gave me something positive I liked to look forward to. (Like a doctor might give a child a lollipop after a shot or appointment.)
After half a year of therapy where I would work on recognition of my mechanisms and ways to deal with them, I started my EMDR sessions. My therapist suggested I take the day or two off work. I didn't get to the most intense sessions yet, but already at the beginning of it, I could feel I need to have time for myself and possibly not to interact with anyone who is unaware of my needs.

The therapy sessions involve a great deal of mental processing. It may put us in our minds and we may lose a sense of presence. To balance that off, we can perhaps see how we can use our bodies to find balance. Sensory experiences can be really beneficial. Treating yourself to some favourite foods, listening to music, doing some stretching/sport or just a walk in the sun or fresh forest. Swimming. Applying pressure to the body is a lovely way to experience relaxation. Maybe some heavy blanket may help. Once I simply lied on the floor and put a mattress over myself. I wished I could also pile up all the furniture in my room on top of that mattress :D:D:D But yeah, we all have our own way to feel our body. It may help.

Btw, there is a great film about autism. It is called Temple Grandin. Temple is an autistic lady who discovered the use of pressure as a means to cope with panick attacks. Very inspiring film!