How to Control Anxiety Hunger

How to Control Anxiety Hunger

Last update: 26 July, 2018

The writer Pearl Buck once said: “Hunger makes a thief of any man”. But a lack of food isn’t just capable of making the human being steal to eat, it’s also connected with certain psychological conditions, which is why anxiety hunger is so difficult to control.

Anxiety problems can interfere in all areas of life, including making us take up unhealthy eating habits. Hence, many patients who go to a dietitian are actually emotionally disturbed.

Why do we eat when we’re anxious?

Emotional eating means that our mood conditions what we eat. In this instance, we’re talking about when a person with excessive anxiety eats for no other reason than a real need. What’s certain is that eating makes us feel good and more relaxed, because we release neurotransmitters like dopamine when we do so.

However, in many cases, this well-being is short lived. Once we’ve finished eating, the feeling of guilt takes hold. In reality, the reward from eating doesn’t last long, and compulsive eating can cause distress and possibly more anxiety in the medium and long-term.

Woman hunger for hamburger

In fact, on many occasions, food can stir up even more negative effects for people with anxiety. When we’re anxious, we usually opt for unhealthy foods, which further complicates the situation.

The main problem is that, when we have a lot of anxiety, it becomes impossible to satisfy our appetite. What’s more, trying to calm anguish with food ends up worsening the situation in most cases. The underlying problem is much more complex. It can be caused by:

  • Inability to manage emotions. It’s very common and usually linked to hiding negative emotions. This might be socially acceptable. However, the inability to manage one’s own emotions can lead to avoidance, and food might seem like a temporary “solution” to this problem.
  • Excessive self-control. If one tries to excessively repress the desire to eat, it can make the problem much worse. We may end up eating even more.
  • Food as the only source of pleasure. If we only find pleasure through food, it’s easy to end up eating compulsively. This behavior can end up becoming an addiction if left uncontrolled.

“Man conquers all, except hunger.”


Learn to control anxiety hunger

We’ve seen the possible causes, but we have to be able to distinguish it to learn to control anxiety hunger. Distinguish it from what you may ask? From normal hunger, of course. If we know the characteristics of each, we can identify the problem and put the solution into practice.

Anxiety hunger is sudden

It usually appears suddenly, with great intensity, and it becomes very difficult to resist. This means that if you feel it arrived unexpectedly and feel it more in your mind than in your stomach, be careful! This hunger is actually an invitation to eat for pleasure, just vivid imaginations of fast food despite being full. If you give in to this and eat, you’ll feel guilty after.

To fight anxiety hunger, you have to learn to identify these situations. Consider whether you’ve experienced something that might have disturbed your mood, be it at work, or with a friend or family member, etc.

If you know how to identify these situations, you can prevent emotional eating at an early stage. On the other hand, it’s easier to succumb to it without realizing it or being conscious of what you’re doing only when it’s too late.

Manage your emotions

As we’ve noted, repressing emotions, though it might seem socially more acceptable, is a mistake. Negative emotions are part of our true selves, and as such we must accept them, share them, or reveal them if necessary.

By learning to manage your emotions, the negative ones as well as the positive ones, your  anxiety levels decrease. After this, tension and worry fade away, and so will your desire to eat.

Woman with anxiety hunger eating ice cream


We know that it’s not easy, but we have to relax in moments of high anxiety and do so before we lose control. If we don’t let ourselves get carried away in times of distress, we can improve things a great deal. How? There are many techniques that allow us to calm our mood

“Food and love keep the world’s factory together.”

-Friedrich Schiller-

Beyond this, it’s helpful to sleep no less than seven hours a night, look for alternative rewards, do physical exercise, keep yourself hydrated, and keep your mind busy with productive activities like reading. This way it’ll be much easier to control anxiety hunger. But if you still aren’t able to handle it, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.