The Causes of Irritability
1. Low Blood Sugar
If you get really irritated, or hangry, when you’re hungry, this is likely because your blood sugar has dropped. Dramatic blood sugar drops are also called hypoglycemia, and this state is typically the result of an underlying condition, such as diabetes or treatment thereof.
But even healthy people can experience a state precursory to hypoglycemia when they don’t eat for a while, and irritability is definitely one of the possible symptoms of blood sugar drops. Other symptoms include nightmares and sweating throughout the night.
2. Various Hormonal Imbalances
The human endocrine system is extensive and complex, and it regulates both our physical and mental wellbeing. Some hormones can even have both a physical and mental effect on our body. Take adrenalin: it doesn’t only make you more alert and less hesitant, but also increases the blood circulation in your body and decreases one’s ability to feel pain.
So, it only makes sense that hormonal disturbances can also exhibit psychological symptoms, including irritability. Many common conditions, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can, unfortunately, lead to increased irritability, and only treating the underlying condition can improve this symptom.
It’s not a groundbreaking observation that a stressful day or period in life can make you more irritable than usual, but it’s still very important to acknowledge this effect that stress has on our emotional health. If we don’t recognize this, we can become overwhelmed by the stress, and this can lead to emotional burnout and various physical and mental conditions.
According to the World Health Organization, around 300 million people worldwide suffer from some version of depression, but few people know that the symptoms of depression surpass feelings of persistent sadness and fatigue. In fact, heightened irritability is a very common symptom of depression or a relapse thereof, too.
Men are more likely to experience irritability caused by depression, and in the majority of these cases, other symptoms, such as aggression, substance abuse, and risk-taking are also present.
When discussing stress and irritability, we mentioned that it can spiral into more extreme mental conditions, and anxiety is certainly one of such conditions. If not recognized and dealt with, persistent stress and anxiety can develop into an anxiety disorder, which can linger on for months or years, and really affect one’s health, life satisfaction, and relationships.
Suffering from anxiety and expecting panic attacks, in turn, brings only more worry and makes you even more irritable, a vicious circle that’s very difficult to break.
6. Various Phobias
People who experience an acute and overpowering fear of something have a phobia of that object, be it spiders, dark places or Santa beards. Any object or situation can trigger a phobia, and if you have a specific phobia, you most likely know what triggers it.
And while scientists apparently made it their mission to give a fancy Greek or Latin name to every phobia out there, the psychological symptoms phobia sufferers experience are all the same, and they include anxiety, fear of fainting or dying, and increased irritability.
7. Not enough sleep
So if you’re not getting your daily 7 hours of sleep, and one in three adults in the United States doesn’t, you can blame the lack of sleep for your irritable mood.
Ways to Manage Irritability
If you made it to this point in this article, it is likely you already made the first step to manage irritability, as you were trying to figure out the source of the emotions you’re experiencing. Are you feeling more irritable because you’ve had a stressful day? Did you not sleep well tonight? Are you depressed?
Addressing the cause of the unrest will be the most beneficial thing you can do to stop being irritable. However, there are a few more general tips and techniques that will make you less irritable, here’s a list of them:
1. Exercise regularly
Exercising is a great way to learn self-control and a method that can help you take off the edge when you’re more irritable than usual. Many people find that they can manage their irritability through consistent exercise, and the best thing is that any type of exercise you enjoy will be beneficial.
2. Skip or drink less of caffeinated drinks and alcohol
Everyone who has ever tried coffee or alcohol felt the way these substances affect our mood and our energy levels. Well, guess what? Too much of a good thing can quickly take you from being energized and cheerful to anxious and irritated, so limit how many caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages you drink.
3. Know your triggers (no matter how minor they may be)
Understanding what situations trigger your irritability can make a world of a difference to you learning to cope with this emotion. The fact of the matter is that feeling irritated is, in many ways, similar to a phobia. If you know that you’re afraid of heights, you will avoid them or learn to convince yourself your phobia is irrational.
The same way, if you recognize that your husband buying the wrong kind of bread irritates you, it’s the first step you take to solve the problem. Do keep in mind that some of the things that get on your nerves will be silly, but so is being afraid of Santa beards and a million other phobias.
4. Practice self-love and compassion
By acknowledging the devastating effects irritability has on you and all the living things surrounding you, it’s possible to think yourself out of this destructive state of mind. Just imagine how tired and disappointed you will be after you realize you spent the whole day being irritated.
Isn’t it better to let your guard down and embrace your loved ones or even cuddle up with your pet? You and those surrounding you all deserve to have the best day possible and choosing to love and respect yourself and your loved ones can turn a stressful and emotionally-challenging day into a rewarding one in no time.
5. Gain perspective
Another way to think about the irritating annoyances that plague your day is to recognize how trivial and unimportant they are when we take into account the big picture. In the vast majority of cases, this minor nuisance is nothing compared to the many good things you experienced or did that very day, week, or year.
Give yourself a pat on the back for your achievements and brush the silly annoyances away, as they’re not even worth the attention.
6. Get some “me” time
If you know you’re the type who gets especially annoyed by people when you’re in an irritated state, then it may be worth to avoid human contact just for a short while. Have a few minutes (or hours) of introspection, find a quiet place to rest, take the time to pamper yourself and do what you love.
Also, keep in mind that irritability may be your body’s way of telling you that you need a break. Take a relaxing bath, listen to the music you love or take a walk in nature, whatever floats your boat.
7. Practice mindful breathing or meditation
Few methods can calm the mind like breathing techniques, yoga, and meditation, as these techniques have been devised specifically for that purpose and perfected for millennia. Meditation, in particular, can be the tool that allows you to disengage with your negative emotions and thoughts and shape your genuine attitude and behavior to those thoughts and emotions.
We have several meditation guides available on our website, here are some of the best ones:
8. Distract yourself
If you can’t be bothered to meditate and don’t feel like introspection really helps when you feel irritable, changing the social and physical setting completely or submerging yourself into a make-believe world via books, films, or your computer may be the thing you need to get your mind off the negativity and irritation... because sometimes, we just need to switch gears as soon as possible.
We highly encourage you to cherry-pick, as well as to mix and match all the techniques we recommend in this section of the article. You can also use them as a complementary treatment if you're taking medications or going to therapy due to a health concern related to feelings of irritability.