On Being Hangry

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We’ve all been there. We haven’t eaten all day, so we try and grab a quick bite only to find out there’s a wait at our favorite restaurant. BAM, we snap.

Jimmy Johns

YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, JIMMY JOHNS!

You’ve been struck by “hanger,” the combination of hunger and anger, an insidious little monster that works its way into our lives and destroys relationships with both our loved ones…

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and our favorite fast-food employees.

Mcdonalds

YES I WANT FRIES WITH THAT!

No one should be surprised by the existence of hanger. In fact, we should be surprised that we took so long to come up with a word for it.

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COME ON!

We recognize hanger in kids with no problem. In fact, a cursory glance at most parenting books will tell you that the vast majority of child crabbiness is explained by sleeplessness, hunger, or both.

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So what causes hangriness? Well, unlike shark anger, which remains a mystery despite my efforts, scientists actually know the answer to this one.

Here’s the key. Comparatively, food is fairly important when it comes to sustaining human life. We don’t live very long if we don’t eat, so our evolutionary history has provided us with a fairly simple set of eating reminders (stomach contractions and growling, low energy, difficulty concentrating, headaches, etc.). These reminders get more extreme the longer we go without food and feeling cranky, irritated, or frustrated falls in that moderate to severe food deprivation range.

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Don’t Make Me Hangry…. You Won’t Like Me When I’m Hangry.

More specifically, it has to do with blood sugar. When our blood sugar gets too low, we get anxious, uncomfortable, and irritable. Ultimately, glucose helps regulate self-control in the brain. Without it, we have a more difficult time controlling our emotions and behaviors.

This means that hunger affects anger on both the front end and the back end of the experience. People get angry when they appraise a situation as unfair or unpleasant. They get even angrier, though, when they’re in a negative state (tense, anxious, hungry, etc.) right before the unfair or unpleasant event (the front end). But, since glucose helps us regulate our behavior, hunger also makes it harder for us to control that anger, and we’re more likely to lash out (the back end).

bill-oreilly-angry-pointing

Can someone get Bill a sandwich or something?

So, can we avoid it? Yes, by eating.

Maya Cooper Michele Perchonok

I’ve cured hunger!

If you’re looking for more than that, here are some helpful resources.

If none of those work, though, there’s always this:

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