Feeling “Hangry” Is Actually a Valid Emotion, Says Science

Just hand over the burrito and no one gets hurt.

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“Lay off me, I’m STARVING!” yells Chris Farley’s character in SNL’s “Gap Girls,” as she grasps the neck of a friend who commented on her French fry consumption. This scene is one of the classics not only because Chris Farley rocks his feminine character, but also because the feeling she portrays is all too relatable.

It’s called being “hangry,” which is a play on words mixing “hunger” and “anger.” The candy company Snickers even has a marketing campaign surrounding the concept, with the tagline: “You’re not you when your hungry.”

As much fun as it is to joke about, you may also be elated to know that when you do get a little irritable, cranky, or frustrated in the face of hunger, you’re not just acting like a baby. There’s actually science behind what makes you feel that way.

When your stomach is grumbling and your blood sugar is falling, your tummy triggers certain hormones that send an message to your brain that it’s time to eat. One of these hormones is ghrelin, also known as “the hunger hormone.”

Ghrelin is found mostly in the stomach and other tissues like the pancreas, but small amounts of it have been discovered in the brain too, where it affects the central nervous system. Ghrelin seems to not only be involved in signaling hunger, but also in reward, motivation, and signaling pathways in the brain. Research has shown that this presence of ghrelin in the brain may also have an effect on stress, anxiety disorders, and depression.

If you ignore ghrelin’s hunger signals for too long, its cry is going to get louder, which may be expressed through you by way of irritability, anxiety, and grumpiness. (Those aching hunger pangs may be sabotaging your weight loss goals too.) 

What’s more, lack of food may also cause serotonin levels to fluctuate. Serotonin, the “happiness” neurotransmitter, affects your mood, and quite possibly your ability to regulate your “hangriness.”

Now go eat something before the Hulk inside you takes over.

Besides feeling “hangry,” here are more ways to gauge your hunger

If you’re feeling “hangry” on the regular, squash hunger with these filling high-protein snacks.