Does Sour Candy Help With Anxiety?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), over 40 million adults are affected by an anxiety disorder in the United States. Not only adults, but a reported 7% of American children between the ages of three and 17 also experience anxiety issues. Anxiety is an intense emotion that often manifests itself in physical ways. Feelings of overwhelming worry and tension can be accompanied by sweating, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, or shakiness (via American Psychological Association). NAMI notes that for people with anxiety disorders, these feelings are often experienced in the face of non-threatening situations, yet are perceived as threatening by the body.

Moreover, the anxiety is recurring and ongoing and often accompanied by intrusive thoughts (via APA). While anxiety disorders come in many forms, they all impact one's ability to go about their day. Some examples of different kinds of anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder (via Medical News Today).

Managing anxiety looks different for everyone. Some may find mental health counseling to be helpful, others may find medication alleviates the discomfort, while others may derive benefit from personal practices such as meditation or breathing techniques (via Medical News Today). Now, one therapist offers a potential coping technique involving a certain sugary treat!

What to do when anxiety builds to a panic attack

When a bout of anxiety intensifies, it can sometimes lead to a panic attack. Experts at University Michigan Health define a panic attack as "a sudden, intense fear or anxiety that may make you short of breath or dizzy or make your heart pound." On average, panic attacks can last between five to 20 minutes, with anxiety peaking around the ten-minute mark. However, while panic attacks may last for minutes in some people, for others, they may last for hours.

Licensed trauma therapist Micheline Maalouf spoke to Insider about the potential symptom relief offered by sour candy to those who experience panic attacks. Demonstrating the technique in a "panic attack hack" TikTok video for Better Help Therapy, Maalouf explains to viewers how popping a sour candy into your mouth at the onset of panic attack symptoms serves as a distraction to the physical senses. Maalouf states via Insider, "It shocks our senses into focusing on the sourness of the candy. It sort of puts us into a mindful moment using our sense of taste and shifts the focus away from our symptoms or whatever triggered the panic."

Using sour candy as a grounding technique

This technique is not unlike other grounding exercises offered by mental health professionals for managing anxiety. Experts at Choose Mental Health explain how grounding exercises serve as a means to direct attention away from our anxiety symptoms in the moment by focusing on other sensations. For example, taking in a strong scent such as a candle or essential oil can help root us in the moment through our sense of smell. Similarly, exercises such as foot-stomping or palm-rubbing can help ground us through sensations of physical contact.

It appears the act of sucking on a sour candy is based on this same strategy. "Most of the time when someone is having a panic attack they are focused on stopping it or not making it worse," Maalouf explains to Insider. "But the problem is that the more we fight the panic, the worse it gets." Perhaps the next time you feel a buildup of anxiety, see if keeping a Warhead candy within reach provides some immediate relief.