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Irritable, Cranky, Grouchy…Why Do I Feel This Way?
You know you’re irritable, your friends know you’re irritable, and the people closest to you really know you’re irritable. Even though some level of irritability is a normal, healthy part of life, it is also something that can have damaging repercussions.
Understanding your irritability will give you the power to track the changes, but more importantly, the resources to reduce the unwanted effects.
Before you can begin to understand what you are facing, you must establish a working definition of what it means to be irritable and what irritability is. For the purpose of this article, irritability will mean the tendency to be made angry or annoyed easily.
This can present as an increased sensitivity to external and internal stimulation. Often with irritability, the reaction will be more frequently produced and/or disproportionate to the situation.
Other words that are synonymous with irritable and irritability include:
The list of words and phrases used to describe an irritable person go on. This indicates just how common this state is.
Perceived Gender Differences
Unfortunately, issues with gender stereotypes present in the topic of irritability. Whereas men’s irritability may be seen as strong or assertive, a woman’s irritability can be seen as being “bitchy.” In this case, the gender expectations see an irritable male in more positive terms than an irritable woman.
This disparity can lead to increased shame, guilt, and judgment towards a woman while serving as encouragement to a man to continue or increase his irritable behaviors.
It is important to acknowledge this at the onset to give a framework and context to your personal experiences and what you may be confronted with in your attempts to modify your irritability.
You already know everyone gets irritated, but you may not realize everyone has different triggers to their irritable states. What is extremely frustrating and irritating to you may have no impact to another person. The opposite may be true, too.
During this process of understanding your emotions, it is valuable to know what sparks these feelings. Consider these irritating examples that are cited frequently by others, the reason, and possible solutions to shrink the effects.
Lack of Sleep
Having a lack of sleep is a surefire way to ensure irritability during the day.
How many hours did you get last night? How was the quality?
Sleeping allows you to process events of the day and refresh your mental capabilities. Without good sleep, people struggle to complete simple problem-solving tasks and other activities of daily living can demand more attention than normally needed.
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To improve your sleep, focus on setting aside more time for rest. Build routines and rituals around bedtime that do not involve electronics, alcohol, caffeine, or other extraneous stimulation as these can affect sleep negatively.
Meanwhile, make your bed and your bedroom a comfortable, clutter-free space used only for sleeping.
What did you have to eat today? Did you forget to eat lunch altogether, or have you been overindulging in foods that are high in fats, sugars, and carbohydrates?
What you eat, when you eat, and how often you eat can have a significant impact on your irritability. Hungry can trigger this result, but so can low blood sugar. These can occur simultaneously or separately depending on what your diet was like for the day.
To correct this problem, shift towards a plan focused on eating smaller meals and snacks more often throughout the day. Stay away from sugary foods and drinks.
Instead, seek out options that make you feel fuller longer and those that maintain steady levels of blood sugar. Lean proteins and foods rich in fiber tend to be safe bets here. Veggies are your friends.
Effects of Alcohol and Other Drugs
People often perceive alcohol and other drugs as a means to reduce irritability, but these benefits are usually nonexistent or short lasting. In actuality, some substances are highly associated with irritability during use like some medications for ADHD, cocaine, and methamphetamine.
Other substances are associated with irritability when the desired effects wear off. Something as benign as caffeine that boosts alertness and productivity during the day can lead to irritability, frustration, and reduced concentration when leaving your system. The same is true for alcohol.
Ending use might result in short-term irritability and discomfort, but will serve you well long-term. If you have been using illicit drugs, be sure to check with an addiction specialist regarding your plans to end use. If you substance is prescribed, speak with your prescriber about other options.
Mental Health Complaints
Many mental health issues and illnesses are linked to irritability. Diagnoses like major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder all include irritability as a symptom.
In this situation, irritability is not the problem — it is a symptom of a greater issue. If these disorders are part of your life, they will require their own professional treatment to limit the impact.
Find trusted, reputable mental health professionals in your area to explore therapy and medication options.
Every life has some amount of stress, and each person has a different stress threshold and a unique way of expressing their stress. If irritability is your natural response, it will become expressed whenever your threshold is reached. This means that a simple misunderstanding or problem can trigger a disproportionate response.
Reducing stress is a multidimensional task that takes time. The good news is that by working to reduce the irritability triggers above, your stress should be reduced. Expand upon your relaxation skills during periods of calm to lower your resting stress level and raise your threshold.
In the Meantime, Communicate
Chances are great the people in your life have noticed your irritability. Rather than trying to ignore the issue, discuss your situation with them.
Let them know what you are going through and work to gather their insights and perceptions. At the same time, let them know what they can do to assist your progress. People that truly care about your needs will be happy to help.
If your irritability is excessive or is beginning to affect your life, take a serious look its roots. Understanding the origins of the emotions can give you the opportunity to lessen its presentation and influence in your life.
By reducing irritability, you can reduce a barrier standing between you and happiness. This is worth your time.