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Therapist Heidi McBain tells Bustle that a variety of therapy sessions are particularly likely to cause "hangovers" afterwards. "Therapy hangovers often happen after a deeply emotional session," she says. "This can be the result of talking about something that feels very vulnerable to you. It can also be grieving the loss of someone or something close to you in your life. It can be coming to a hard realization of some changes that you want/need to make in your life."
It's also a scientifically proven phenomenon. Researchers at NYU found in a 2016 study that emotional brain-states after intense experiences can persist for long periods of time, which is why you don't just leave your emotions in the space of therapy; you carry them with you afterwards. The hangover lasts for as long as your brain requires to process emotional information — which, in therapy, is often related to your memories. Raking through your past and making big emotional discoveries, even in a safe, therapeutic environment, has a cost.
The therapy hangover isn't a signal you should stop therapy. In fact, it's a sign that you should keep going — and the rewards of going through the pain are worth it for the emotional clarity you get on the other side.
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