Common reasons why you might experience irritability

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby on December 3, 2019. Written by Kathryn Wall. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Irritability is a symptom encompassing moods like anger and unease, as well as feeling aggravated and frustrated. You may feel irritable and intolerant of others in response to stress or underlying health conditions. Managing irritability is possible—through lifestyle changes or medical treatment—when you know what’s causing it, so continue reading to learn more about common causes, treatment options, and more.

Common causes of irritability

Irritability causes include vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, or lifestyle triggers (such as increased stress).

Symptoms of severe vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B6 deficiencies may include irritability. However, this is more common in infants and severe B6 deficiency is uncommon in the United States adult population. Using the Everywell at-home B Vitamins Test can check your levels of 2 B vitamins-B6, B9, and B12.

Hormonal imbalances are commonly associated with increased irritability. Common hormone culprits include testosterone and thyroid hormones (T3, T4, and TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone).

  • Testosterone is a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, testes in men, and ovaries in women. Low testosterone can lead to an irritable mood in men and women. The Everlywell at-home Testosterone Test is an easy way to measure your levels of free testosterone—so you can find out if your levels are too low.
  • Thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause increased anger and mood swings. The thyroid maintains a balance of hormones to keep your body's metabolism functioning properly—but an imbalance in thyroid hormones can trigger symptoms. If you suspect you may have a thyroid condition, you can take the Everlywell at-home Thyroid Test to check your levels of the 3 key thyroid hormones: TSH, T3, and T4.

Many lifestyle factors cause periods of irritability and moodiness. Lack of sleep, low blood sugar, and increased stress can all cause you to become more irritable.

Mood disorders are characterized by emotional states that interfere with your overall quality of life. Examples of common mood disorders include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). These mood disorders may cause extreme irritability, a feeling of emptiness, or sadness.

Talking with a mental health professional is an ideal next step to take if you think you may have a mood disorder. And there’s good news here: powerful therapies exist (often involving mental health counseling and medication) which can help you manage symptoms effectively and enhance your quality of life.

Seeking medical care for irritability

If you suspect you have chronic irritability caused by an underlying condition, seek out the care of a medical professional. Your primary care physician may refer you to a mental health professional who can provide counseling services and/or prescribe medication to manage your irritability.

Medication for irritability depends on the underlying cause. Antidepressants, antimanic agents, and anxiolytics can help treat or manage mood disorders. Hormone therapy can manage imbalances in testosterone or thyroid hormone levels. Testosterone therapy can improve the symptoms of low testosterone in men, including irritability. Synthetic thyroid hormones are often used to manage thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism.

Lifestyle changes can also reduce irritability. Getting more sleep (or improving sleep quality), effective stress management through techniques like mindfulness meditation, and making sure you eat a nutrition-rich diet are all great options.

Common questions

Does depression cause irritability?

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person, although irritability is commonly tied with depression. People who are experiencing depression and irritability often have vitamin deficiencies, which can cause restlessness, fatigue, and general feelings of discomfort.


Why am I so irritable?

Irritability can be caused by many possible factors. Lifestyle factors—like lack of sleep, low blood sugar, and increased stress—can lead to irritability. Underlying medical conditions—such as B vitamin deficiencies, low testosterone, and thyroid disease—are other possible causes.


You can easily check for several potential causes of irritability from the convenience of home. Use the Everlywell at-home B Vitamins Test to check for B vitamin deficiencies, the at-home Testosterone Test to see your testosterone levels, and the at-home Thyroid Test to test the 3 main thyroid hormones.


References

1. Vidal-Ribas P, Brotman MA, Valdivieso I, et al. The Status of Irritability in Psychiatry: A Conceptual and Quantitative Review. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2016;55(7):556–570. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2016.04.014

2. Kennedy DO. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy--A Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068

3. Low Testosterone (Male Hypogonadism). Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed December 3, 2019.

4. Thyroid Disease. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed December 3, 2019.

5. Mood disorders. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed December 3, 2019.

6. Bassil N, Alkaade S, Morley JE. The benefits and risks of testosterone replacement therapy: a review. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2009;5(3):427–448. doi:10.2147/tcrm.s3025

7. Hypothyroidism. StatPearls. URL. Accessed December 3, 2019.

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