Reasons, Symptoms, & Causes Of Irritability. Answering The Why Am I So Irritable Question

By Sarah Fader

Updated May 09, 2019

Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC


Irritability is defined as the state of being easily prone to irritation or anger. Not only is this state of being closely linked to stress and mental health ailments, but proneness to irritability can also impact our daily lives with coworkers, friends, family, and other loved ones. Understanding the cause of irritability is paramount to overcoming it, as is an acute awareness of the reasons and symptoms of irritability.

Reasons Behind Irritability

While brief periods of irritability are normal and even to be expected at times, the three common triggers for this feeling are stress, mood/anxiety disorders, and medical conditions. Stress is arguably the most common reason behind irritability and occurs when faced with demands and threats. Stress can also flare up when feelings of helplessness or loss of control are present. Demands, threats, fear, and loss of control can cause all breed irritability, especially when left unchecked.

Think about it- When was the last time you experienced irritability? What caused it? Were you stuck in traffic, unable to connect with a loved one, or faced with a seemingly impossible challenge? Each of the circumstances described above, and more, is a part of why stress and irritability are so closely linked.

Despite the normality of occasional irritability, left unchecked, it can have adverse impacts on our relationships and daily experiences. Continually snapping at friends after the slightest affront may damage relationships. Being grumpy towards your co-workers may alienate them while breeding a hostile work environment. Being short with family members can hurt treasured relationships. One of the best ways to curb irritability is to keep stress to a minimum. All parties involved shall benefit.


While stress is the most common reason behind irritability, mood and anxiety disorders are a close second. So often, people underestimate the importance of mental health and its impacts on our emotions. Anxiety and bipolar disorders are the most chronic mental health ailments which breed irritability. For instance, individuals suffering from bipolar disorder often experience agitation, difficulty with concentration, insomnia, self-destructive habits, and, of course, irritability.

Moreover, like mood disorders, irritability is a central symptom of anxiety disorders and other mental health problems. The American Psychiatric Association cites irritability as one of the prime causes of overall anxiety disorders. People suffering from various mood and anxiety disorders are often unable to overcome them alone. However, the adequately diagnosed medication and treatment can work miracles.

Last but not least on the reasons behind irritability comes various medical conditions. Unfortunately, people faced with Alzheimer's disease, Graves disease, diabetes, the flu, and other ailments may experience feelings of irritability. Chronic illnesses can also breed irritation.

An awareness of stress, mood/anxiety disorders, and medical conditions is highly important in the quest to combat irritability. However, those who feel in need of additional help should reach out to BetterHelp's licensed and certified professionals.

Symptoms of Irritability


Similar to the underlying reasons behind irritability are symptoms which provide dead giveaways. Anger, confusion, rapid breathing, sweating, and an increased heart rate are dead ringers for irritability. However, while fleeting feelings of irritation are regular, prolonged or habitual feelings of irritability may breed unfavorable symptoms such as hot flashes, hair loss, weakened sex drive, fevers, headaches, and even irregularity in female menstrual cycles.

However, despite those above, undesirable symptoms of irritability, there are certain precautions and steps one can take to prevent, remedy, and decrease them. According to Psychology Today, a reduction in caffeine/alcohol, warding off nervous energy and pinpointing the source of your irritability can work wonders.

Despite the popularity of alcohol and caffeine, these ingredients often breed irritability for many people. This does not mean that one should never drink a cup of coffee or enjoy a glass of Sangria from time to time, but habitual consumers of alcohol and caffeine might greatly benefit from cutting back.


A similar principle applies to warding oneself from negative, nervous energy. Toxic energy tends to fester, especially when left unchecked. Sometimes a jog down the block, the intense workout at the gym, or even a hot, steamy shower can do away with negative energy which would have otherwise increased irritability and heightened the mentioned symptoms.

Despite the merits of reducing one's consumption of alcohol/caffeine and doing away with negative energy, one of the most effective ways of preventing irritability symptoms is defining the root of the problem. If irritability can be combated before its inception, stress can be nipped in the bud.

While prescribed medication or help from Better Help professionals are very viable solutions to mental health issues, sometimes tackling irritability is as simple as defining the underlying cause. For instance, do interactions with a particular individual often dampen your mood? Is your job or current occupation doing more harm than good? When was the last time you went for a vacation, a day off, or spent some quality time with a loved one? All of these are essential questions to ask ourselves. Sometimes, avoiding irritability is as simple as taking a step back to regroup and evaluate before going forward.

Causes of Irritability

Feelings of irritability and stress, also accompanied by their inherent symptoms, generally flare up when life gets challenging or difficult. For instance, frequent interactions with disagreeable individuals can breed irritation. Upheaval, feelings of helplessness, and stress-inducing changes are also probable causes of irritation. Often, one's surroundings, interactions with others, or even uncontrollable circumstances can cause one to become irritated.


While awareness of the causes of irritation is important, knowing how to handle and deal with them are equally as critical. Habitual irritation left unchecked eventually takes a toll on one's mental health and overall wellness. However, as noted by Wisdom Times, an understanding of irritability allows one to master and control it, as opposed to vise versa.

Why Do You Think You Are Experiencing Irritability?

Knowledge of the reasons, symptoms, and causes of irritability are virtually meaningless if one fails to look within and discover the root of their irritation. Granted, stress, mood/anxiety disorders, and medicals conditions are common causes, but each person must evaluate and determine which reason applies to them.

One effective way of unearthing the cause of your irritability is a close look at the patterns of your daily life. When are you at ease? When do feelings of stress or irritability surface? Are you calm or agitated when you're alone or with company? Are there specific people, situations, locations, or circumstances that irritate you more often than not?


Individuals should never feel pressured to evaluate their lives by themselves if they are uncomfortable with doing so. (Pressure can breed further irritation!) Seeking out the help of friends, family members, or other loved ones is always an acceptable measure. Sometimes, being with loved ones can combat feelings of stress, tension, and irritability.

Going Forward

Sometimes, the assistance of a certified and licensed professional can work wonders in an individual's quest to unearth the underlying causes of their irritation. You deserve to be happy, prosperous, thriving, and successful in your daily life. Irritation is a sign that something is not right and in need of fixing. In many cases, the well-being of one's mental health depends on how well they handle stress and irritability.

If you feel in need of help or assistance, please feel free to reach out to BetterHelp's professionals. BetterHelp strives to make professional counseling accessible, affordable, convenient so that anyone who may be struggling with the challenges of life can get help at any time from anywhere. In addition to caring psychologists, counselors, therapists, and social workers who are eager to help, Better Help also has countless success stories and testimonies from individuals who benefited from our services.

In the end, the choice is yours. Irritability is an emotion that people are faced with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, so are stress, mood/anxiety disorders, and medical conditions. However, you are not alone, and there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Mindfulness of when, where, and why you experience feelings of irritability are paramount to overcoming it.

Sometimes, making lifestyle changes is the simple solution to decreasing irritability, stress, and promoting wellness and conducive mental health. As noted by Psychology Today, warding off nervous energy, reducing one's intake of alcohol and caffeine, and pinpointing the cause of your irritability can work wonders.


In cases of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and other mental health ailments, seeing a licensed professional is often the best course of action. Usually, people have reservations about this, but there is absolutely no shame in seeking outside, professional help. You deserve to live your best life, and you are stronger than any medical condition or anxiety/mood disorder.

If interested in seeking out the services of Better Help, please click here. You'll be directed to a series of easy questions which will allow us to pair you with a therapist best suited to meet your needs. Our ultimate goals are to get to know you and help you combat irritation, stress, or other issues which may afflict you.

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