Why am I so irritable?

Why am I so irritable?

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
Staff Psychiatrist
at Talkiatry
February 20, 2024
In this article

Snapping at loved ones? Feeling frustrated and angry for no reason? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Irritability is more common than you’d think. So what does irritability mean, exactly? It means feeling agitated to the point that it disrupts your daily life. When you’re irritable, you might even take out your frustration on people around you. We’ve all been there: Irritability makes us impatient, then we snap at a loved one, and regret doing so.  

While it may seem like you’re irritable for no apparent reason—there’s likely a cause for your feelings and behavior, and in some cases it can be a mental health condition. In this article, we’ll cover common reasons behind irritability, provide psychiatrist-backed coping strategies to help, and explain when it’s time to talk to a professional to get treatment.  

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5 Reasons you feel irritated for no reason  

The good news is that there are many causes for irritability, ranging from physical pain to trouble sleeping to mental health conditions. And understanding where your feelings of frustration are coming from will help you tackle the root cause.  

Low blood sugar

One reason you may be thinking, “Why am I so irritable?” is low blood sugar. If your body has difficulty regulating your blood sugar—due to diabetes or a diet high in starch and sugars—your blood sugar may decline rapidly throughout the day. Low blood sugar affects your brain’s ability to regulate your mood, thoughts, and emotions.

You can experience the symptoms of low blood sugar even if you don’t have diabetes or a diet that causes blood sugar swings. Many people joke about feeling “hangry” (hungry and angry), and there’s a reason for that feeling. When you feel hungry and your blood sugar drops, your anxiety response increases, and you’re more likely to feel upset.

Hormonal imbalances

Another culprit for irritability? Hormones—aka chemicals in your body responsible for mood, metabolism, regular menstrual cycles, and more. When your body has too much or too little of any one hormone, it’s bound to throw something off.

Hormone imbalances can be due to thyroid disease, Cushing’s syndrome (which means you have too much cortisol—your body’s stress hormone), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), among other conditions.  

A symptom of many of these hormone-related diseases and syndromes? Irritability.

Physical stressors

It’s hard to be patient and even-keeled when you’re in pain or struggling physically. For example, when you have a headache, you might lack patience and feel irritable toward those around you. Or, if you twist an ankle while walking, you might be frustrated for the rest of the day.

Consider whether an injury, chronic pain, or even lack of exercise could be the cause of your frustration. After all, regular physical activity helps regulate your mood and coping mechanisms.

Mental health conditions

Depression and other mood disorders, like bipolar disorder (BD) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), also cause irritability.  

Let’s break it down. Those with depression often struggle with regular sleeping, eating, and thinking clearly. If you experience PMDD, you’ll experience bouts of anger, frustration, and intense PMS symptoms before your menstrual cycle. Both of these conditions, along with other mental health conditions, make it challenging to regulate your mood, leading to irritability.

Learn more about what depression feels like.

Trouble sleeping

It’s no surprise that a lack of quality sleep leads to irritability. After all, mood and sleep are extremely linked. If you have consistent, healthy periods of sleep, you’re more likely to be patient and have a clear mind. On the other hand, if you struggle to sleep, you’re more likely to be easily agitated during the day.  

How to stop irritability  

If you’re constantly asking yourself why you’re always angry and irritated for no reason you’re probably also looking for ways to curb your frustration. Here are a few things you can do to decompress, improve your patience, and alleviate irritability.

1. Practice self-care

Sometimes you get irritable because you’re overwhelmed—due to one of the above causes or simply because you’re in a stressful period of life. Regular self-care is a great way to combat this. Take time to do things you love, see friends, and decompress by yourself. This may look like establishing a healthy morning routine or doing a solo activity that helps you decompress each evening, like watching your favorite TV show.

Whatever you choose to do, prioritizing yourself and your well-being helps reduce your mental load and combat irritability. So the next time you feel irritable, try taking a step back to decompress.

2. Get quality sleep

Good sleep = better mood regulation. That means you’ll wake up with more patience and feel more like yourself.  

If you struggle to get good sleep, you can try the following techniques:

  • Avoid screens before bed
  • Play white or brown noise
  • Try to maintain a cool environment, which can help you sleep
  • Start winding down at least an hour before you want to fall asleep
  • Don't exercise close to bedtime  
  • Establish a healthy nighttime routine

Consult a healthcare professional if you try the above techniques and still have a hard time sleeping. They will help you understand the root of the problem, diagnose any sleep disorders—like sleep apnea or insomnia—and give you a treatment plan.

3. Move around

Physical activity releases endorphins—the brain’s feel-good hormone. So, try incorporating more movement into your daily life.  

You don’t have to become a marathon runner to feel the positive impact of movement. Try dancing around your house, going for walks, or simply spending time picking up your home—all of those things will increase endorphins in your brain and help you feel less frustrated.

4. Cut back on caffeine

Too much caffeine causes difficulty sleeping, headaches, and restlessness. And—you guessed it—all of those things can lead to increased irritability. So if you consume caffeine (or alcohol) regularly, consider cutting back and seeing how you feel.  

5. Talk to a loved one

Everyone wants to feel seen and understood. In fact, connection to others helps us recover from stress and sleep better. Next time you feel overwhelmed, or like you might become irritable, give a friend or family member a call. Talking to the people you love will help you feel more relaxed.

6. Take deep breaths

There’s a reason people say to “take a deep breath” when you feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that combats your brain’s fight-or-flight response.  

The next time you’re feeling irritable and intolerant of others, take several deep breaths. Here’s how:

  • Take a deep breath through your nose until your lungs and belly fill up.
  • Slowly breathe out through your mouth.  
  • Repeat until you feel more relaxed.  

When to get help and treatment

Sometimes mental health issues are the most likely causes of irritability. If you get frustrated for no reason, you’re not alone. Many people struggle to regulate their moods. If the above techniques aren’t enough to alleviate your irritability, or you feel like it’s  becoming more intense or consistent, seek out a mental health care professional. Working with a psychiatrist or therapist will help you get to the root of your irritability— and develop anger management techniques.

At Talkiatry, we can help you do exactly that. Our mental health care professionals will help you address the root causes of your irritability with a personalized treatment plan that may include medication, therapy, or both. We’re a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network, virtual care for mental health conditions—and you can schedule a first visit within days. Get started with a short online assessment.

The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right now.

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.

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