Do you ever feel cranky, super-sensitive, impatient, snappish, crabby, moody, want-to-bite someone’s head off, annoyed, surly, grouchy, prickly, testy, touchy, or otherwise best described as being in a foul-tempered mood? If so you may be experiencing irritability, one of the possible symptoms of depression. When most people conjure up an image of a person suffering from depression we tend to think of a person who is despondent, sad, and crying. Yet sadness is only a partial portrait of depression and its many symptomatic nuances. We instinctively want to comfort the person who is feeling down or who is crying. But when we encounter a friend or loved one who is snapping out at us and spewing venom, our instinct may be to run away. The symptom of irritability is usually not endearing to the rest of the world. In this post we are going to explore this symptom of depression as well as possible causes and solutions.
What is irritability?
Irritability has been defined by some as an excessive reaction to external or internal stimuli. Others describe irritability as the state of easily being excited to impatience and anger. Irritability is not just a mental state. It is also a symptom of a wide variety of medical and/or mental health conditions. If you have been feeling irritable for awhile, as in more than two weeks, it is definitely something to take a look at and figure out what is causing this symptom.
Who is susceptible to feeling irritable?
While everyone experiences bouts of irritability from time to time, there are certain populations who may be more prone to chronic or extreme irritability.
Individuals more likely to experience the symptom of irritability include:
• Men who suffer from depression
Male depression can manifest in feelings of anger, aggression, and irritability. One of our writers for MyDepressionConnection, John Folk-Williams, describes how irritability and anger were primary symptoms of his depression.
• Children and teens who are clinically depressed
One of the noted symptoms of pediatric depression is irritability. If your child or teen is experiencing excessive irritability, moodiness, as well as sleep and appetite changes, these may be the warning signs of depression.
• Depressed Women
Depression can cause irritability for some women. In addition, hormonal changes which take place during the course of a woman’s life can also increase feelings of irritability. PMS, pregnancy, peri-menopause, and menopause can all have a profound effect upon mood and one’s ability to deal with stressors.
• Individuals Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder
Excessive irritability can also be a sign of bipolar mania. Other signs of mania may include the decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, increased talking, grandiose notions, and poor judgment. For more information about mania and hypomania please visit Health Central’s BipolarConnect.
What causes irritability in addition to depression and Bipolar Disorder?
The potential causes of irritability are so numerous that we cannot possibly list them all here. Depression can be a primary cause for feeling irritable yet there are other factors you may wish to examine as possible contributors.
• Too much caffeine
The Mayo Clinic advises that if you are consuming more than four cups of caffeinated coffee per day (more than 500 to 600 mg) you may experience symptoms such as insomnia, nervousness, and irritability. If too much caffeine is causing you to feel irritable here is how to decrease your caffeine consumption.
• Lack of sleep
A sleep disturbance such as insomnia or sleep apnea can cause you to feel fatigued during the day. In turn, sleepiness and fatigue can contribute to feelings of irritability. If you need information and resources about getting restful sleep, please refer to the many articles located on MySleepCentral.
• Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease which is triggered by the consumption of foods or substances containing gluten such as wheat, barley, or rye. The symptoms of celiac disease greatly vary for each individual but may include symptoms of irritability and depression. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness states: "One person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person has irritability or depression."
• Magnesium Deficiency
Those who get too little magnesium in their diet may be susceptible to feelings of irritability and anxiety among a host of other symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that: "Symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include agitation and anxiety, restless leg syndrome (RLS), sleep disorders, irritability, nausea and vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle spasm and weakness, hyperventilation, insomnia, poor nail growth, and even seizures."
• Chronic Pain
Anyone living with chronic pain knows that anxiety, depression, and irritability can result from attempting to cope with unrelenting physical pain. To find out how to manage chronic pain please visit our ChronicPainConnection.
• An undiagnosed medical condition
There are many diseases and medical conditions which list irritability as a symptom. Diabetes, for example, can cause mental problems such as agitation, confusion, and irritability. Likewise, an overactive thyroid can cause nervousness and irritability. In fact, if you do a search for the symptom of irritability you are going to come up with hundreds of possible disorders and conditions which include irritability as a symptom. Irritability is a common symptom not only for mood disorders such as depression and Bipolar Disorder but may also be a warning sign of certain diseases and medical conditions. If you are experiencing chronic irritability that you just can’t shake, it may be wise to get a good physical from your doctor to rule out any underlying medical problems.
In a follow-up post we are going to address how to decrease your irritability as it relates to depression. We are going to be counting on your input to generate ideas of how to cope with this symptom.
We would love to hear from you. Do you feel that irritability is a major or minor symptom of your depression? How does it manifest? Do you think that any other medical conditions may be contributing to your feelings of irritability? Share your thoughts and opinions in a comment or sharepost!