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Extreme Irritability: The Reasons Behind Your Crankiness

Everyone gets irritated at some point in a day. Chronic irritability is when this feeling doesn’t go away. Everyday factors such as poor diet, lack of sleep, and stress can all be the reason. Chronic pain and Huntington's disease are medical causes of irritability and should be treated by a doctor at the earliest. Based on the cause, reduce your irritability with treatment, mindfulness, or meditation.

Is there anyone on the face of this planet who can confidently say that they do not get irritated? If there are, it’s just a handful! Because ruining the mood is something that comes to us easily. You are running late to work and there is a bad traffic jam ahead. You are tired after a long day but the kids are bouncing around endlessly. You are hungry but cannot eat for the next 2 hours. All of these are situations beyond your control, which is the reason why they irritate you so much.

While such situations are normal, if you’re irritated all the time, without any reason at times, you might be in trouble. If your irritability is chronic and your everyday companion, some of these health issues might be at play and are worth investigating.

1. Depression And Anxiety

In a work setting, depression, anxiety, and irritation tend to go hand-in-hand.1 Major depressive disorder is often associated with irritability and lashing out, among other symptoms. In such cases, even if you are just mildly anxious, over time, it can make you constantly irritable.

2. Sleep Deprivation

This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? On those days when you haven’t had enough sleep, you are naturally cranky and moody. If you suffer from insomnia, sleepless nights and cranky days become a pattern.2 This is because insufficient sleep tires the body out and makes you ill-prepared to make sound decisions. As your cognition suffers, you become more irritable.

3. Improper Diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet every single day is not an easy task. Grab-and-go meals may have become your new norm, and very often, you may not know what exactly has gone into your food. Processed foods, sugar, and caffeine can all exacerbate your irritability. Sometimes, eating insufficient meals in a bid to lose weight can also make you feel extremely irritated.3

4. Circumstances

You cannot always control the circumstances. You can, however, decide how you want to respond to them. If traffic woes irritate you every day, you need to evaluate alternatives such as leaving earlier or later than the rush hour. Being irritated on a daily basis will not help you in the long run. In extreme cases of irritability, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be of help.4

You can also try a stress-relieving technique that works best for you, be it mindfulness, meditation or taking time off from regular activities.

5. Chronic Pain

Disorders like fibromyalgia, arthritis, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome are usually accompanied by chronic pain. In such cases, depression can set in and irritability follows.5 While pain relief should be the primary focus of your treatment, you should also evaluate how you feel on a daily basis and share any changes in mood with your doctor.

6. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

DMDD, as it is commonly known, is a childhood condition. If you observe that a child is cranky, irritable, and prone to outbreaks of anger, it is could be due to DMDD. Irritability is a characteristic feature of this condition. If you suspect that your child has DMDD, medication and therapy can help.6

7. Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a disorder of the brain and nervous system. The most common form of this disorder begins in the late thirties and continues for life. And irritability is one of the earliest symptoms. If you find that irritability is accompanied by slight losses in motor control or the inability to learn and retain new information, it is worth investigating. Huntington’s disease cannot be treated entirely but management options include therapy and surgery.7

8. Denial

Simply denying that you are cranky can often make you crankier! People around you are often the first ones to notice mood and behavior changes. Have you been told that you are irritable most of the time? Does this, in turn, make you angry? Are you dismissive of these suggestions? Some doctors say that these are the first signs of chronic irritability and must be investigated.

So, if the daily grind is making you cranky and you feel like you cannot manage it on your own, it is time to seek help. Find out the cause of your chronic irritability and seek treatment accordingly.

References   [ + ]

1. Ganster, Daniel C., Bronston T. Mayes, Wesley E. Sime, and Gerald D. Tharp. “Managing organizational stress: A field experiment.” Journal of Applied Psychology 67, no. 5 (1982): 533.
2. Melamed, Samuel, Ursula Ugarten, Arie Shirom, Luna Kahana, Yehuda Lerman, and Paul Froom. “Chronic burnout, somatic arousal and elevated salivary cortisol levels.” Journal of psychosomatic research 46, no. 6 (1999): 591-598.
3. Alaimo, Katherine, Christine M. Olson, and Edward A. Frongillo. “Food insufficiency and American school-aged children’s cognitive, academic, and psychosocial development.” Pediatrics 108, no. 1 (2001): 44-53.
4. Sukhodolsky, D. G., D. Z. Bolling, J. Wu, M. Crowley, J. McPartland, L. Scahill, and K. A. Pelphrey. “Cognitive behavior therapy for irritability in high-functioning ASD: Pilot study of neurobiological mechanisms.” In international meeting for autism research, pp. 283-299. 2011.
5. May, Arne. “Chronic pain may change the structure of the brain.” PAIN® 137, no. 1 (2008): 7-15.
6. Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. National Institute Of Mental Health.
7. Huntington disease. U.S. National Library Of Medicine.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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