Feeling Irritable? Depression And How It Can Affect Your Moods

Updated January 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The word "depression" may conjure a stock image: someone sitting alone in dim lighting, their head in their hands, eyes glazed or glistening with tears. Although this can certainly be the case for some people, the symptoms of depression can be far more nuanced, and they manifest differently in just about everyone they affect. For some, personality plays a significant role in how symptoms of depression come about, and for others, the catalyst for depression is the greatest reason for symptoms manifesting the way that they do. Still, for others, the chemical imbalances involved in depression will be the greatest determiner in how symptoms come about, and none of them are greater or less than the other.

Are The Symptoms Of Depression Affecting You?

What Is Depression?

While the phrase may be bandied about with abandon, the term "depression" is used to denote an actual clinical state, diagnosable by a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional. A state of depression is not necessarily marked by despair or other forms of sadness; depression may just as easily be marked by fury, despondence, or anxiety. Indeed, depression is rarely a disorder diagnosed in isolation—it very often has close friends, such as anxiety disorders or other mood disorders.

Depression is a clinical state characterized by both behavioral and biological alterations, including mood, hormone production, and self-control. Depression can come about as a result of a traumatic incident—the death of a loved one, a lost relationship, a lost job—or may come unexpectedly without a single inciting incident. To qualify as depression, however, the symptoms of depression must have been experienced consistently for two weeks or longer.

What Are The Symptoms Of Depression?

There are some common symptoms of depression, while other symptoms might not initially seem related. The most common depressive symptoms include sadness, frustration, helplessness, restlessness, loss of interest in activities, sleep disturbances, lethargy, anxiety, guilt, and brain fog. A conglomeration of these traits is typically what prompts people to seek help from a mental health professional, and these are typically the symptoms preceding a diagnosis of Major or Persistent Depressive Disorder.

Irritability And Depression

Irritability is often not associated with depression, but can actually be a symptom as sometimes depression is rage turned inwards. Irritability does sometimes have a genuine source, as in the case of someone forgetting an important appointment or getting to work only to discover that you've left a pivotal document at home—an hour's drive away. Persistent, prolonged, and unprovoked irritability, however, is not typical, and should not be regarded as such. Instead, a period of prolonged irritability may be your body's way of alerting you to the presence of an imbalance and a need for help.

Irritability, interestingly, may be more prevalent in depression for certain personality types and in young adults whose hormone levels have not yet leveled out. People who have a history of difficulty controlling emotions and dwelling on the past are more likely to display irritability and anger as symptoms of depression. Although most psychiatrists consider depression as a form of anger turned inward, some people will experience this same anger but reflect it outward toward other people, often family or friends.

Irritability and anger require treatment and management as symptoms of depression as much as any other symptom, including sadness, loneliness, and isolation. If you experience irritability and anger in conjunction with other symptoms of depression, be sure to include these symptoms in your overall treatment plan, as failing to do so could impede positive outcomes during treatment.

Depression Treatment

Typically, depression is treated in two ways: talk therapy (or another form of cognitive therapy) and pharmaceutical intervention. Talk therapy has demonstrated positive effects on the symptoms of depression and is the most widely known and widely used source of treatment for Major and Persistent Depressive Disorder. Consistent treatment has shown favorable outcomes for those living with depression.

Pharmaceutical interventions come in the form of antidepressants. Although these are the most common forms of medicinal intervention, finding the right balance can take time and will require collaborative effort on the part of patients and doctors. Patients must monitor their responses to medication and deliver these responses to their physician in order to determine whether or not medication dosage, frequency, and medium need to be altered or moved on from altogether. It is also important to note that antidepressants may increase symptoms of depression initially, including thoughts of suicide, before settling in and doing their job in resolving depressive symptoms.

Furthering Treatment

While talk therapy and antidepressants are the most common methods of treating depression, there are additional, supplementary treatments that can speed healing and improve outcomes. The first—and most commonly encouraged—is altering lifestyle and exercise habits. Improving sleep by altering electronic usage near bedtime is often suggested, as is adding an exercise routine to your day. As little as 10-20 minutes of steady exercise can help mitigate some of the symptoms of depression, including psychomotor agitation that can sometimes be triggered by depression (like pacing, obsessively biting nails, tapping objects, and so on).

Diet alterations may also be suggested for patients being treated for depression; a diet high in sugar, fried foods, and highly processed foods has been linked to increased likelihood of anxiety, depression, and other mood and neurological disorders. Eliminating these triggers may alleviate some depressive symptoms. Changing your relationship with food may also be recommended and can include not eating past certain times and eating on a certain schedule. Dietary interventions are not always included in a treatment regimen but have some research backing their efficacy in supplementing standard treatment methods.

Finally, some herbal supplements have been linked to lessening symptoms of depression. There are no formal governing bodies to ensure that supplements actually contain the substances they claim to contain, nor are there governing bodies to make sure all claims are legitimate, so engaging in an herbal treatment regimen should be done with caution and with the knowledge and understanding of your mental health practitioner. Some herbal supplements interact with medications, so no supplement should be added to your routine without first speaking with your doctor. If any strange symptoms or reactions arise, supplementation should be stopped immediately and discussed with your doctor.

Moods In Depression

Moods can take dramatic swings and turns when depression is at work. Although manic, prolonged mood swings between low periods and high periods is classified as Bipolar Disorder, part of having depression is having difficulty controlling moods and feelings. Consequently, people with depression may quickly rotate through a series of emotions and moods seemingly without reason, which can be overwhelming and confusing for everyone involved—including the person with depression.

Some people experience depression as a long period of disinterest or apathy. For these individuals, depression is often an extended attempt to "snap out of it" and cultivate enjoyment of once-loved activities and things. For others, depression is an experience involving perhaps an hour of fury without explanation, followed by feelings of guilt for having so much anger without reason. A mix of emotional upset is the more common manifestation of depression and may more readily indicate that something is amiss.

It is also important to note that some feelings will absolutely have source material, and that even within a depression diagnosis, not all moods and emotions are to be thoroughly evaluated or processed. If someone cuts you off in traffic, you are forced to slam on your brakes, and your morning coffee spills all over your seat, you are likely to experience frustration and anger—this is likely not due to the presence of depression, but the result of a legitimate catalyst. If, however, a squirrel darts out in front of you while you walk along the sidewalk and your reaction is outsized, depression may be to blame.

Depression And Mood Regulation

Depression affects the human body and brain in a multitude of ways, but one of the least commonly acknowledged ways is the alteration of mood regulation. Some people may find that their ability to temper and control their emotions and experiences are drastically reduced amidst depression. If that is the case, therapy can help create routines and coping mechanisms to ease some of the stress of impulsivity.

Many individuals with depression have found online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to be helpful in managing their symptoms. Online CBT has been proven to be as effective as in-person CBT, sometimes even more effective, in the treatment of mental health conditions.

BetterHelp can provide affordable online therapy that works with your busy schedule. Talk with your therapist through in-app messaging, phone, or video call.

Are The Symptoms Of Depression Affecting You?

Depression is a condition that can affect every aspect of your life and should never be taken lightly or ignored. Whether its symptoms come in the form of apathy and sadness or explode in the form of irritability and irrational anger, depression can and should be treated. Job loss, relationship damage, and self-esteem damage may be the result of inadequate treatment, so seeking help and additional resources is imperative in managing symptoms, feeling emotional support, improving quality of life, and encouraging a positive outcome.

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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