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The Link Between Anxiety and Irritability

January 24, 2022

The Link Between Anxiety and Irritability

A few weeks ago, I noticed that I was approaching the point of being burnt out. I was working a lot of hours, my daughter was sick, which later turned into me getting sick. I wasn’t sleeping well I’d been tracking my ‘sleep debt’ throughout the week and knew my energy levels were worsening. 

Without going into granular detail, my week continued to spiral. At some point, on a Saturday morning, I became consciously aware that I was being snappy with my husband and children. I knew my anxiety levels were very high due to this illness, lack of sleep, and stress at work. But, it wasn’t until later that morning that I realized that I was irritable, and it was related to my anxiety. 

What is Irritability?

According to VeryWellMind, irritability is “involves feelings of anger or frustration that often arise over even the smallest of things.” 

When most people think of anxiety, they immediately think of stress, worry, fear, or overall anxiousness. But, anxiety can be much more than this. For some people, heart palpitations are a sign of anxiety. For others, it may be overactive thoughts, replaying past conversations or situations, chest pain, moodiness, or isolation. Finally, anxiety can also present itself as anger and irritability. So, today, we will talk about the connection between irritability, anger, and anxiety. 

Common Causes of Irritability

According to Medical News Today, “many factors can cause or contribute to irritability, including life stress, a lack of sleep, low blood sugar, and hormonal changes.” Other things that may cause irritability but aren’t necessarily associated with illness, but more so imbalance, include having too many responsibilities, competing priorities, parenting (repeating yourself), etc.

Signs of Irritability

A few of the most noticeable signs of irritability include but are not limited to the following:

  • Agitation, frustration, and annoyance, which includes you getting easily annoyed or overreacting to small things that you would not otherwise be bothered by
  • You find yourself less patient than you usually are
  • You find that you are “snapping” at people 
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Oversensitivity
  • Excessive sweating
  • Muscle Tension
  • Erratic behavior 
  • Short temper
  • Fatigue

One important thing to highlight is that people who are feeling irritable won’t necessarily experience all of these symptoms or feel symptoms all of the time. They might feel fine in one moment, but a minor annoyance might be the catalyst to set them off unintentionally. 

Managing Irritability

For starters, although anxiety-related irritability can make you act like a ‘jerk’ sometimes, you must remember that you are not a jerk. The short-fuse you may have periodically can be managed with the proper work and support. There is also no one-size-fits-all approach to managing irritability. We must choose which coping mechanism best suits our life circumstances and personality. 

It is also important to note that if you experience feelings of irritability that are persistent, pervasive, or distressing, please schedule some time to discuss this with your doctor. Persistent or distressing irritability can become excessive and interfere with your daily life, making it challenging to accomplish your everyday tasks and disrupting your relationships with others. 

For irritability caused by a mental health condition, treatment may include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. A few other coping strategies that you can experiment with include but are not limited to the following: 

  • Eat healthy and nutritious foods - research indicates that our moods are very closely linked to the food we put in our bodies. Try to have a low-fat diet that does not include high amounts of sugar. 
  • Engage in regular physical activity - We’ve all heard it before - exercise can be very beneficial to our health and moods. Don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself. The most important thing is that you get your body active each day (even if it is small amounts of cardio)
  • Identify your triggers - It is tough to improve something if you don’t understand what is causing it. For this reason, you must identify what is causing you to feel stress, anxiety, depression, and irritability. In this evaluation, pay close attention to the times of day, the people, situations, etc., that may be the root cause of your irritability. 
  • Spend time journaling each day - Journaling can accompany the identification of your triggers. Write down the way you feel, any triggers you’ve identified, and be prepared to talk about this with your doctor, therapist, close friends, or loved ones you trust. 
  • Adopt healthy sleep habits - Sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being. If you are not getting enough, you will become irritable.  Creating a schedule or routine can help you to get better quality sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, speak to your healthcare provider to determine if you have insomnia. 
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation - The practice of mindfulness helps us to focus on the present moment. With anxiety and depression, people often spend a lot of time thinking about the past or worrying about what may happen in the future. When faced with irritability, bring yourself back to the present moment, consider turning on some relaxing meditation music, and try to get yourself back to a place of peace.
  • Learn new relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization, which may help your body return to a state of calmness. 

I encourage you to not only be honest with yourself about your irritability, but please also openly communicate with your family, friends, and, if needed, your colleagues. Of course, you will want to make sure that you’re only sharing with people who will be supportive and help you through it, but communicating what you are feeling will go quite a long way. I’ve found that when I begin to feel the ‘snappiness’ that I described earlier, I can give my family and friends the warning that my stress or anxiety levels are high, I’m feeling irritable, and I may need some time by myself to process my feelings and to try to recover from it. My family and closest friends can also help me gauge whether my responses to situations that I’m encountering are normal feelings or if I’m being too sensitive and overreacting. Being honest with you can be a massive ask of your friends and family, so please be ready to hear the truth, even when you don’t want to and even if you may not be ready to accept it. And remember, they’re only trying to help you and support you through those difficult times, so you have to be sure you don’t push them away.  


At Mon Amie's Mental Wellness Solution, our mission is to improve mental health literacy and reduce the stigma associated with mental health conditions. We provide on-demand digital training and in-person wellness training during workshops, conferences, and keynote speaking.

We also create inspirational designs and wellness merchandise that is a positive daily reminder to people worldwide.

Mon Amie’s Mental Wellness Solutions does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional. 


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