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The phenomenon of involuntary dehydration, the delay in full restoration of a body water deficit by drinking, has been described extensively but relatively little is known about its physiological mechanism. It occurs primarily in humans when they are exposed to various stresses including exercise, environmental heat and cold, altitude, water immersion, dehydration, and perhaps microgravity, singly and in various combinations. The level of involuntary dehydration is approximately proportional to the degree of total stress imposed on the body. Involuntary dehydration appears to be controlled by more than one factor including social customs that influence what is consumed, the capacity and rate of fluid absorption from the gastrointestinal system, the level of cellular hydration involving the osmotic-vasopressin interaction with sensitive cells or structures in the central nervous system, and, to a lesser extent, hypovolemic-angiotensin II stimuli. Since humans drink when there is no apparent physiological stimulus, the psychological component should always be considered when investigating the total mechanisms for drinking.