A lot of people suffer from psychological hunger – a condition in which food is taken for pleasure instead of sustenance. Many believe it to be a coping mechanism or technique to alleviate distressful feelings such as sadness, pain, depression, anger, boredom and other related disturbances. Psychological eating is quite different from physical eating (which involves eating to satisfy hunger). In fact, it is a major culprit of weight gain, obesity, and emotional/psychological signals due to the guilt and shame that it can result in those who engage in it.

The difference between physical and psychological hunger

Typically, a psychological eater will choose to eat unhealthy and harmful foods such as ice cream, cookies as well as other sweet foods due to the fat and sugar content in them that brings a feeling of satisfaction and euphoria. As such, these foods trigger the brain to “happy mood” chemicals, which are natural painkillers.

Psychological hunger has become a lifestyle for most and the danger is something that most people aren’t aware of. In other to break free from the round cycle of psychological hunger, it is crucial to understand how psychological hunger differs from real physical hunger. This can really be trickier than it sounds because psychological eaters have spent months or years sticking to the act of using food to deal with feelings and are typically completely out of touch with their body’s reaction to the actual need for food or what that feels like.

Since psychological hunger is very addictive, it is important to assess and understand the signs. Taking a deep look at your own character and behavior will help in stopping the cycle of emotional eating and overeating.

Psychological hunger comes on suddenly, like an unexpected storm on a warm summer day. It is practically an urgent need for food, and it feels overwhelming. Conversely, physical hunger is not that urgent, it is more gradual, processed and also expected, as it comes in anticipated time intervals, such as meal times.

How to identify physical and psychological hunger


In physical hunger, a sensible meal will satisfy and be beneficial to an individual – typically contains healthy selections like fruits and vegetables. In psychological hunger, one has excessive cravings for foods that are high in fat and sugar. The craving is an urgent need, and it sometimes feels like something one can’t live without or do without, and only that specific food which is being craved will satisfy.


Psychological hunger is often accompanied with the feeling of guilt, shame, and regret after eating because in most cases, the consumer is fully aware that the food was eaten for dysfunctional reasons.

In physical hunger, however, the consumer stops eating once he/she is full. Conversely, psychological hunger is never satisfied. The psychological consumer will continue to keep eating and craving for more sugary foods and junks until they are so stuffed that they feel sick afterward.

The Emotional Hunger is in the Mind

Physical hunger is felt in the stomach when there is an absence of food or it is meal time while psychological hunger is felt in the mind. The latter also includes imagining the texture, smell, taste, and color of certain foods being craved.


If you noticed, there is a profound difference between these two types of hunger. Is it possible for you to identify any of these own eating habits? For many, psychological eating is a habit that covers a large part of their life and it is not healthy for the body, mind, and emotion.

Healthy Tip/Solution

The key solution is to identify and become aware of the problem and your own timing and pattern in this regard. Afterward, you then learn to discipline yourself and learn good eating habits that will eliminate the need to use food for emotional satisfaction.