We’ve all experienced it. That point when your hunger reaches an uncontrollable state, and you move very swiftly from being hungry to being hangry. It’s a real thing, and it’s the worst! Your hunger manifests itself in anger and irritability, and suddenly if you don’t eat RIGHT THIS SECOND, your life spirals out of control before your very eyes. Our kids experience it too, and sometimes we chalk it up to being melodramatic. But science has confirmed that hanger is an actual, valid emotional state! We’re not being over-dramatic, we’re just really hungry.
Being hangry is defined as being “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger”, according to Oxford Dictionaries. See? It’s even in the dictionary!
While anyone who’s experienced hanger knows it’s real as shit, science decided to go ahead and validate our feelings. I love it when science does that! Sophie Medlin is a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics from Kings College London. During Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4, Medlin confirmed that feeling hangry is real, and explained what happens in our bodies to make us go from mild-mannered to Hulk Smash if we miss lunch.
Medlin says, “We’ve long recognised that hunger leads to irritability in science. But the wonderful world of social media has merged the two words for us and now we know it as ‘hanger’.”
So what causes hanger? Says Medlin, “When our blood sugars drop, cortisol and adrenaline rise up in our bodies – our fight or flight hormones.” That rise affects what happens in our brains. Neurons secrete neuropeptides, which control the chemicals in the brain. “The ones that trigger for hunger are the same ones that trigger for anger and rage and impulsive type behaviours”, says Medlin. “So that’s why you get that sort of same response.”
Hanger is often portrayed as a “woman’s emotion”, but Medlin says it can affect everyone. In fact, says Medlin, “in terms of neuroscience it’s actually more likely to happen to men than women.”
So the next time you feel yourself slipping into hanger, make sure you have a snack on-hand to stave it off! And don’t let anyone ever tell you’re being dramatic. Especially when you’re hangry.