Hungry + Angry = Hangry
Hungry + Angry = Hangry
The real reason why excessive hunger turns you into a murderous psychopath
We’ve all been there. One minute you’re getting on with your life, doing your everyday stuff, the next minute some small, insignificant thing ticks you off like a bomb and you go into a rage. We lash out friends, family, colleagues, and then, after a while (and usually a meal) we feel bad about it. That’s called being ‘Hangry’!
Well, it seems like its not only a convenient excuse for people to behave like jerks. There is actually some science behind it. It turns out many people actually have a very specific physiological processes happening that flips them from best friend to worst nightmare, like a switch, into hulk rage mode when they get excessively hungry.
We’ll look into the reasons and explanation in this article.
First things first, what is hunger?
Well, hunger and satiety are what’s called sensations. Hunger represents the physiological need to eat food (obviously). Satiety is the absence of hunger, or the sensation of feeling full.
Hunger and appetite are two different things. While appetite represents the conscious desire to eat food, and usually, but not always, comes with hunger, hunger is more basic. Appetite can be seen as the conscious counterpart to the more instinctive hunger.
How does hunger even happen? Well, that’s a complex physiological process, but we will focus on the most relevant aspects of it. First and foremost, blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are being detected at multiple sites in the body. When the overall levels drop bellow a certain level, the body send signals to the brain to start initiating the hunger response. The same happens with amino-acids and fats as well, only to a lesser degree. One can say that the sum of nutrients circulating through the blood is the first signal for hunger.
An “empty stomach” is another. And it is a very real thing. The stomach is connected to the brain via the vagal nerve. This nerve wraps around the stomach and literally senses how much food there is inside. Once the receptors detect that the stomach has nothing inside, it starts sending signals to the brain, which then in turn cause what we know as tummy rumbles.
Finally, hormones kick in. Insulin and cholecystokinin are released from the guts as they absorb food, which suppresses feelings of hunger and promotes satiety. As the guts become empty of food, insulin and CCK stop secreting from the guts, which again prompts the brain to start the process of “becoming hungry”.
Now that we know what hunger is, we can get into how it can make you angry.
When the brain detects hunger, it slowly starts increasing circulating epinephrine and cortisol. This leads to an agitated state. And when a person is agitated, if they cannot act on the reason or cause of that agitation immediately, they will react to almost anything.
When the body gets the signals for hunger from across the body, it starts a process which is evolutionarily intended to get you moving and looking for food. It just so happens that these signals are the same ones that activate when we are angry and in rage. Let me elaborate.
Cortisol and epinephrine are two hormones which control may things in the body and are essential to the stress response. The stress response is the bodies way of dealing with anything that brings it out of balance, be it a threat, pain, irritation or, you guessed it, hunger. When the brain detects hunger, it slowly starts increasing circulating epinephrine and cortisol. This leads to an agitated state. And when a person is agitated, if they cannot act on the reason or cause of that agitation immediately, they will react to almost anything.
Another player in this game is neuropeptide Y, a hormone that is secreted when the body is lacking nutrients. It has also been linked to a rise in aggression.
To compound all of this, a drop in blood sugar leaves us feeling shaky, weak and insecure, because the body knows it is lacking the necessary fuel to react if there is any danger. When people feel weak and insecure, they can easily start feeling threatened even when there is no real danger.
Now to sum up, cortisol and norepinephrine raise our level of stress, neuropeptide Y primes us for aggression and a drop in blood sugar makes us feel threatened. When we take all of this into account we can rightly see how a person can turn into a barrel of gunpowder, ready to explode at the minimal spark!
Experiments and studies confirm this as well.
Jennifer MacCormack, a doctoral student in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and lead author of a new study published Monday in the journal Emotion says: “It’s generally accepted that hunger can impact our moods and even behaviors like aggression and impulsivity. But we still don’t know much about the psychological mechanisms that transform hunger into feeling hangry.”
MacCormack and her colleagues did a series of experiments and found that being in a stressful situation — and not being in tune with your emotions — may both make a person cross the line from hunger into hanger.
First, the researchers asked more than 400 people from across the country to do a few online experiments. In one, the people were shown an image that was meant to induce positive, neutral or negative feelings — like a puppy, lightbulb or snake. They were then shown an intentionally ambiguous image — in this case, a Chinese pictograph. The men and women were asked about their hunger levels and to rate the image on a scale from pleasant to unpleasant. The hungrier the people were, the more likely they were to report that the image was unpleasant if they were shown a negative image before it. This suggests that in a negative situation, people may be more likely to experience their hunger-related feelings — aka hanger — than if they are in a pleasant or neutral situation, the researchers say.
So, how do we deal with this?
One thing you can do is have a minimum of 3 meals a day. Snacks can also help, between meals, particularly mixed nuts like almonds, pistcachios and brazil nuts. You can even throw some raisins and dried cranberrries in there to really spice it up and to keep you satiated and fed until the next meal. But, may be the most important of all, be aware of what state you are in! If you become aware that you are starting to feel hungry, make a conscious effort not to lash out and let other people irritate you!
Sometimes the best advice, is the most simple!
Aaron is the founder of www.thehonestearth.com To lead a quality life, one must be nourished with quality. We make the best plant based protein powders & supplements with sustainable ingredients from around the world.