What Is the Difference Between Physical and Emotional Hunger?

physical and emotional hunger

Most people consider hunger a strictly physical process – you get a feeling of emptiness in your belly and you interpret it as a message from your brain to eat some food. While this is the case most of the time, you have probably experienced emotional hunger without being aware of it. This type of hunger isn’t a big problem for the majority of the population, but it does affect some people deeply.

In this article, we’ll be explaining the difference between physical and emotional hunger.

It Hits You Differently

While physical hunger starts out slowly, emotional hunger feels urgent and hits you suddenly. It’s not normal to feel very hungry unless it’s been a long time since you last ate. Sudden hunger can sometimes be a sign of depression or diabetes.

Stomach vs. Head

Physical hunger comes from your stomach, as a feeling of growling and emptiness. On the other hand, emotional hunger starts as a thought about cravings or specific foods. Someone who is physically hungry will eat almost anything, while an emotionally hungry person usually craves for something specific like a pizza or burger.

This is why emotional eating is a big obstacle for weight loss – emotionally hungry people usually crave junk food.

Regret After a Meal

One of the most obvious differences between physical and emotional hunger is the feeling you get after a meal. Since emotional hunger often means giving in to a craving, most people who engage in emotional eating end up feeling ashamed or guilty. These feelings are linked to many eating disorders, so they could be a sign of a more serious condition.


Emotional hunger is not a serious medical problem if you only give in to it occasionally. However, if you often find yourself feeling bad about your eating habits, contact your doctor.

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