Dr. Garry Barber – Director of Counseling Center

A simple internet search reveals studies which demonstrate that physical hunger can result in feelings of anger and frustration.  Such anger is a biological reaction caused when brain chemistry is affected by a lack of nutrients essential for healthy brain function.  This phenomenon is so common, a word has been created to describe it – “HANGRY.”  In modern-day English, “hangry” is a popular portmanteau (a word that combines the sounds and meanings of two words to form a single word and meaning).   It just makes sense to combine the words hungry and angry – they just go together.

We begin to observe the effects of being hangry from the earliest stages of childhood.  It is almost as if adults have a natural aversion to believing an infant or toddler can be angry for purely selfish reasons.  We tend to blame biological or situational effects that are out of the child’s control.  As parents (and grandparents) we excuse fits of rage with phrases like, “She must be hungry.”  Oftentimes these excuses accurately describe the child’s condition.  However, there are certainly other times when the child is lashing out in response to unmet needs that have nothing to do with food– needs about which he or she does not have the communicative ability to express.  So, the baby just cries, screams, and flails about in frustration until the need is met or attention is distracted or exhaustion leads to sleep.  While it is common knowledge a child can be hangry, this does not explain all fits of rage.

What of older children, adolescents, adults?  Do they get hangry?  Absolutely!  Recent advertising for Snickers candy bars has done an excellent job capitalizing upon this phenomenon because most people can relate to it.   I must admit a snickers bar has helped pull me from the pit of anger a time or two – or more!

There is, however, a common awareness that anger and rage are not always connected to a lack of physical nutrients.  Often the catalyst for a fit of rage or cold isolation is based on a deeper emotional/spiritual level than physical hunger.  Rage (aggressive or passive aggressive) most often presents itself in response to a hunger of the soul, not of the body.  “SOUL HANGER” is a term I use to refer to the kind of hangry that comes from an unmet need in the human soul.

It is not always easy to determine exactly what the human soul hungers so deeply for.  One of the ways I attempt to help people identify the object of the hanger in their souls is a review of what I call “THE SEVEN WORDS OF ANGER”:

REJECTION, GUILT, INFERIORITY, INJUSTICE, FEAR, TRAUMA, and SHAME

Ongoing anger is often the result of a deep hunger in the human soul to find healing for and rest from these kinds of overwhelming and vulnerable experiences.  Perhaps you need to seek the help of a friend, pastor, or counselor to sort out the deeper needs that leave you starving for peace.  Go first to Christ and offer the struggle of your soul to Him.  The question is – what are you “hangry” for?

Garry Barber is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor (NCCA) who holds Masters and Doctoral degrees in both biblical studies and family counseling. For nearly 3 decades he has sought to guide individuals and families to a healthier, more functional life. The Joy House Counseling Center exists for the purpose of providing a faith-based option for residents of the Highway 575/ 515 corridor who seek guidance with life’s problems. We have locations in Pickens, Gilmer, and Cherokee Counties with fees based on income and ability to pay. We offer counseling to all ages with professional services to a wide variety of individuals, families and their needs. Contact our Counseling Center via phone at 678-452-2037 for more information.