Could Hunger Harm Your Marriage?

Couple in bathrobes, eating at health spaIf you’ve ever felt like you’re not quite yourself when you’re feeling hungry, you could be onto something. About 20% of people are on a diet at any given time. Assuming the premise of most diets is restriction, that means there are many hungry people in the world. A new study suggests hunger can actually play a role in aggression between spouses.

Hunger, Aggression, and Voodoo Dolls

The study, led by Ohio State University psychologist Brad Bushman, examined the effect of low blood glucose—a common indicator of hunger—on behavior. The researchers wanted to measure aggression, so they devised the approach of giving study participants voodoo dolls.

Each of the 107 couples got a voodoo doll that was supposed to represent their spouse. Three weeks later, researchers examined the voodoo dolls for damage, and found that those belonging to people with low blood sugar levels had more pins stuck in them.

Bushman argues that there’s a close correlation between blood glucose and aggression, emphasizing that the body only has so many resources. When it runs low on fuel, self-control may take a hit. He points to research showing that people with diabetes—who struggle with frequent blood sugar drops— have higher average aggression levels than people without the health issue.

What Does It All Mean?

While feelings of frustration and anger may feel involuntary, sticking pins in a voodoo doll is a choice. While hunger may lower thresholds for aggression, it doesn’t make aggression an inevitable conclusion. And not everyone agrees that low glucose leads to aggression. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Robert Kurzban, for example, emphasized to The New Yorker that it’s actually rare for the brain to experience low glucose. He points to marathon runners who all have low glucose levels at the end of a race, but who don’t suddenly become roving threats to society.

A University of Miami psychologist, Michael McCullough, points out that humans have had to deal with periods of hunger for most of our history. He doesn’t believe that an aggressive response to brief hunger makes sense in light of our evolutionary history.

The debate about the role of glucose in mood is ongoing, but one thing is certain: unhealthy food deprivation isn’t good for anyone. If you want to stay on the safe side, make sure you eat meals several times a day—even if you don’t have a voodoo doll.

References:

  1. Hellmich, N. (2013, January 07). Fewer people say they’re on a diet. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/07/decrease-dieting-weight/1814305/
  2. Kohn, D. (2014, May 7). Is low blood sugar really linked to bad behavior? Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2014/05/blood-sugar-and-bad-behavior.html
  3. Stein, R. (2014, April 15). Voodoo Dolls Prove It: Hunger Makes Couples Turn On Each Other. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/15/301780516/voodoo-dolls-prove-it-hunger-makes-couples-turn-on-each-other

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 7 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • hanna

    hanna

    May 13th, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    I will be the first to admit that when I am hungry, I do become sort of evil. We are not talking just the small occasional little hunger pangs but when I get ravenous, it is like feed me now or I am going to go crazy on you. I hate being like that but that feeling is one I cannot bear and my husband knows that the ebst thing to do in that case is to get me some food as soon as possible. You would think that the blood sugar or something drops and this is why, I don’t know, but all I know is that it makes me turn into something that I am usually not.

  • Gene

    Gene

    May 14th, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    @ hanna- eat something for goodness sake! That has to be much better than provoking an argument, especially when you know what is causing it

  • Betsy

    Betsy

    May 14th, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    I WON’T GO SO FAR AS TO SAY THAT THERE COULD BE PEOPLE USING THIS AS AN EXCUSE BUT IF THE SHOE FITS THEN YOU KINDA GOTTA OWN IT. LETTING YOUR BLOOD SUGAR DROP IS, I AGREE, A CHOICE THAT YOU ARE MAKING UNLESS YOU HAVE SOMETHING LIKE DIABETES THAT YOU SOMETIMES CAN’T MANAGE OR CONTROL. SO UNLESS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO HAVE AN EXCUSE OR PICK A FIGHT THEN I SUGGEST THAT YOU SHOULD COME UP WITH SOMETHING ELSE. THERE ARE OTHER UNDERLYING REASONS FOR SOING THIS AND OTHER THINGS (ANGER AT SOMEONE?) THAT COULD BE PROVOKING THESE REACTIONS BUT THIS ISN’T IT.

  • andrew a

    andrew a

    May 15th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    This doesn’t have to only be about marriage, but if you allow things like this to dictate how you treat other people in your life:friends, colleagues, coworkers, etc, then this is something that you really need to get a grip on and work on.

    This is an excuse, and a poor one at that. There is nothing scientific that says that this should increase your anger. This is simply something that may make you uncomfortable but it shouldn’t be the trigger that will set you off for the rest of the day.

    If you feel like this can become problematic for you then you need to stick to a rigid schedule of eating something every few hours so that this doesn’t hit you and cause you to take out your own discomfort on others.

  • Garrison

    Garrison

    May 16th, 2014 at 3:43 AM

    I’ve got it! Another great excuse to go out to eat together! Are we sure that this reserach wasn’t funded by some restaurant association? ;)

  • Kris

    Kris

    May 20th, 2014 at 4:06 AM

    This is insane! Are there really those out there who would pass of bad behavior and attribute it to the fact that oh sorry, my blood sugar dropped and I am ravenous and therefore I have the right to then treat you like a dog?
    No thanks, I will have no part of that

  • May

    May

    May 21st, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    My boyfriend gets a little b**chy when he’s hungry. It is sometimes difficult when there is little that either of us can do to control the situation. Sometimes he gets to the “aggressive stage” in hunger as soon as dinner is in the oven and will take at least 20 minutes to cook. We also had a period of time recently in which we were short on food and didn’t have enough to keep us satisfied. I let him eat more and went hungry myself more often because he was the only one employed at the time and couldn’t afford to get into that kind of mood at work. But also it was because I would rather be hungry myself than deal with him when he’s hungry. Sometimes you don’t have a choice about when you eat. I definitely think that some people, like my boyfriend, should learn to handle themselves better when they are hungry… But I think it’s also important to be patient because some people are more impulsive, which may be heightened while hungry. I don’t think that this is something that can be fixed overnight. If it were, wouldn’t there be less angry-hungry people?

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.