The phrase “eat your feelings” exists for a reason — food is the ultimate distraction. When you’re sad, angry, stressed... diving into something decadent is the ultimate dopamine trigger. There’s nothing cheesecake can’t fix, right? It makes sense then that one TikTok user’s claim about sour candies and anxiety attacks would work. Popping a Warhead, Lemon Drop, or other sour candy into your mouth when you feel yourself spiral might just be the perfect “distraction” from an anxiety attack. By the time your brain recovers from the sourness, your anxiety trigger might be long gone, or the stressor you were perseverating on has now been completely forgotten.
But does it really work? And, if so, how? Can sour candies actually “hack” your brain and stave off anxiety attacks?
First, what’s an anxiety attack?
“Anxiety is an umbrella term for emotions of fear, worry, avoidance, and panic,” explains Dr. Kash Yap. “An interplay of multiple factors causes this condition. The first management of an acute attack is reassurance and deep breathing. During episodes of anxiety, breathing becomes more shallow. You start exhaling too much carbon dioxide. Higher levels of CO2 in your blood signal the respiratory drive. Without enough CO2, hyperventilation persists.”
That is, of course, the very essence of an anxiety attack. You’re anxious, worrying, or panicking, which causes you to take shorter, shallower breaths and eventually start hyperventilating.
Can sour candies stop anxiety attacks?
The short answer: Yes.
Like most things related to our brain, our anxiety can present itself on a spectrum. Moreover, our stressors may last longer than that initial pucker of sour can last. In other words, it might only delay the inevitable — if it works at all.
“Sour candy is known to have a sour and tangy taste, which can cause a sensation that distracts from anxiety symptoms,” says holistic healthcare practitioner Julius Cermak. “When you are anxious, your body is in a heightened state of arousal, and your senses are heightened. By engaging your senses with a sour taste, it may help to distract your mind from anxious thoughts and reduce the intensity of your symptoms.”
Explains Dr. Yap, “The act of placing a sour candy in your mouth also mimics the act of taking a pill. This creates a believable placebo for your brain to placate its thoughts.”
Are there better options for stopping anxiety attacks?
“Consuming large amounts of sugar and acidic substances like sour candy may have adverse effects on your health in the long run, such as tooth decay and acid reflux,” warns Cermak. “Additionally, relying solely on sour candy as a coping mechanism for anxiety may not be an effective long-term solution and can lead to dependence on this strategy.”
- Mindfulness exercises
- Look for something in your surroundings you’ve never seen before (a crack in the wall, perhaps)
- Deep breathing
- Calming music
- Warm baths
- Count backward from 100 (if you need to, count “upwards” to 100 and then back again.)
- Breathing in essential oils (lavender and chamomile are known to be “calming,” but sniff what makes you happy!)
- Count things (anything: red things, things you’re grateful for, condiments in the fridge, windows on the nearest building, etc.)
TL;DR, this TikTok tip actually has merit! Still, it’s best used in moderation.