Jim Duffy: When my partner goes all '˜Incredible Hulk', I make snacks

It's important to recognise the plight of those of us who are prone to becoming '˜hangry', writes Jim Duffy.
Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk in the 1980s TV series (Picture: Kobal Collection)Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk in the 1980s TV series (Picture: Kobal Collection)
Lou Ferrigno as the Incredible Hulk in the 1980s TV series (Picture: Kobal Collection)

On a perfect day things can be going just swell in my house. My partner and me can be ploughing through our lists or simply having a walk in the lovely countryside where we live.

We try as far as possible to be in the moment. Having had a busy six months we, like many of you, value our home time together. But that pragmatic bliss, that stroll in the bucolic idyll, that peace and tranquility can be shattered within a moment.

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A dark cloud can settle over us without warning. Suddenly, my partner changes. An extreme metamorphosis takes place as she journeys to a new mental state that means I have to be very, very careful. And it’s all my fault. I’ve let things go too far the wrong way. I’ve gotten my timings wrong. No, it’s not OCD or medication that she needs – it’s food. She’s hangry!!

Yes, it now appears that the word hangry, formed by crashing hungry and angry together, is now a properly recognised mental and physical state. I’m not so sure that it is a disease or ailment that requires a visit to the doctor or psychiatrist, but more simply a visit to the fridge or the chocolate drawer.

Hangry has now even made it to the dictionary. Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary cites hangry as meaning: bad tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. I know exactly what it means. It’s not pretty.

We all have our foibles and nuances in our behaviours that come to the surface in different scenarios.

If I get hungry, I don’t tend to get irritable, but more jaded and less ebullient. I know within myself that I am hungry and will act accordingly to either mentally recalibrate when I will potentially get some food or go get some. I can function in the knowledge that I am hungry and can physically and mentally prepare myself for the new timeframe until food appears. But, for many of you out there, this simple re-programming does not compute as you start to experience a takeover of your mind and body by the hangry syndrome. Reason and rationality vanishes from even the most mild mannered and gentle of people.

It’s a bit like watching the 1980s version of the Incredible Hulk. Bill Bixby, who played Dr David Banner, changes when he gets angry. He gets much bigger, bursting out of his clothes, turns bright green and looks very scary. As many of you will know, Lou Ferrigno played the actual Hulk character in the mini-series. When all trussed up and looking mean, the Hulk was not to be messed with it. David Banner was no longer a decent bloke trying to live a normal life. He became a frightening figure that would take revenge on the those who had made him angry. In fact, he even made it clear to the journalist who was pursuing him when he told him – “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

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Yes, that is exactly what it is like when you discover and realise that your partner suffers from hanger and you have forgotten to feed her.

Like all syndromes, afflictions or psychoses, there is a scientific explanation that gives us an insight into why our partners turn into raging Hulks when we do not feed them at the right intervals.

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When people get hangry, their mood and demeanour can sour to the extent that it can immediately affect relationships around them. But, this is down to the levels of glucose dropping in their bloodstream.

For many of us, a drop in blood sugars like glucose can cause us to become a bit dizzy or out of sorts. Some runners can experience dizziness or feel shaky after a run as their bodies cry out for glucose. Hence the huge market in energy drinks in athletics. But, how glucose levels drop for each of us in everyday life, as a result of not eating regularly, is a very individual phenomenon.

Sufferers of the hangry condition get irritable quickly and then move into a mental state ranging from mild to jaggy anger. At this stage, they need a fast glucose hit.

The trick is to recognise this in you and anyone living with you. You may not be hungry because you ate a decent breakfast. But, you cannot make the assumption that someone who can get hangry is not hungry. Remember, each individual will react differently to the level of glucose that is swishing around their arteries. So, one has to plan well and not have long hiatuses between feeds. But, it is easy to get caught out.

Only last week, We went for a walk to a local cafe where we would order a croque-monsieur. All was well, despite the fact I knew that my partner had not eaten for a while and the walk had been long. Oops! The kitchen staff completely forgot our order as we sat for 25 minutes.

We left as we did not want to wait for them to forget another order. As we walked back home, I could feel the Incredible Hulk starting to take shape beside me. On the way to the cafe we had chatted about happy things. But not now. The world was an ugly, unforgiving expletive-filled place. I had to act fast.

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As soon as we got home, I raided the fridge, made cheese on toast and emptied jars of artichokes and mushrooms. It took three hours before the Hulk disappeared and I kept my distance.

I have taken ownership for feeding my partner and keeping the Hulk at bay. Make sure you get to grips with hanger and don’t let a dose of the nibbles turn into something more sinister.

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