You are irritable, impatient, and frustrated with most aspects of your life. It’s an unhappy place to be, and you would much rather be stress-free and relaxing. So why can’t you? It is possible that depression could be at the root of your irritability.
It might be difficult to remember exactly when you felt like you ran out of patience, but it has been a while and pretty much everything is getting on your nerves. Our emotional states are not always easy to track, especially if we don’t have practice in being conscious about our moods and how they are impacted. It is likely that at some point you have linked your irritability to stress, or maybe that you are not sleeping as well, or you may feel justified in blaming it totally on those around you.
However, if you stop and reflect for a moment or two, does it seem like your outlook has done a solid shift to the negative side? Have there been other times where you haven’t reacted so strongly to similar issues? If the answers are yes, your irritability could signal that you are actually experiencing lesser-known effects of clinical depression.
Understanding the Link between Depression and Irritability
Depression is understood as a mood disorder, an impairment in the regulation of emotions. It is often characterised by feelings of hopelessness and sadness, as well as a loss of interest in hobbies or other activities typically enjoyed.
The typical connection between sadness and depression is what creates a cognitive disconnect between the symptoms of irritability. While depression is often termed as “anger turned inward,” the increased hostility that many people struggling with depression feel can easily be demonstrated externally as well.
Research has shown that people living with depression are more negatively biased in the way they perceive and process life around them. When someone with depression receives any input or information, they tend to interpret this in a negative way. Therefore, people who are inclined to express negative perceptions with anger or impatience will clearly exhibit that with others.
According to one long-term study, symptoms like irritability and anger are associated with more severe and longer-lasting depression, as well as reduced impulse control, higher rates of substance abuse and anxiety disorders, and less overall life satisfaction. This type of depression is also linked to bipolar disorder in relatives.
Symptoms of Depression
People living with depression can experience a range of symptoms including:
- Irritability, impatience, hostility and angry outbursts, even at small things
- Erratic behaviour, such as hanging up on someone or driving aggressively
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness or sadness
- Loss of motivation or interest
- Lack of energy and slowed speech, movements or thoughts
- Back pain, headaches, and other physical ailments without a clear source
- Impaired thinking, concentration, memory and decision-making
- Persistent guilt, anxiety and self-blame
- Insomnia, or oversleeping
- Significant changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or gain
- Recurrent thoughts of death, or suicidal ideation or attempts
Why Is Irritability an Overlooked Symptom of Depression?
Despite being increasingly recognised as a factor in depression, irritability is not always linked to depression in psychological literature, and thus is sometimes overlooked or mistakenly linked to other conditions such as bipolar disorder. There is also some misconception that irritability as a symptom of depression primarily affects adolescents. The reality is that behaviour such as persistently starting arguments, or being overly critical or mean, can be experienced by people living with depression in any age group.
How to Manage Depression-related Irritability?
1. Decide how you want to react
For many people dealing with irritability or their strong reactions to certain people or incidents may seem entirely justified. We are often irritable with those closest to us – our partners, family members and good friends – and despite their love for us, constant anger or criticism can weigh heavily on even the most solid of relationships.
An important question to ask yourself is, in general, how would you like to handle situations that make you feel angry or irritable? If the way you answer that question is different than the way that you often react to your frustrations, then that is a good place to start. It is important to remember that our initial feelings don’t have to dictate how we act, and that taking a pause to get in touch with our mind can help us align our actions more closely towards who we would like to be in our interactions with others.
2. Talk to people you trust, and ask for accountability
When you’re in the thick of depression and your frustrations with the world around you are at a high, it can be very difficult to ascertain when your reactions may be disproportionate. This is where those you love and trust can be very helpful in supporting you as you work through your irritability.
Find someone you know can be honest yet kind with you about your behaviour, and ask them to help let you know when your irritability may be getting the best of you. Make a commitment to make amends with those you may have hurt, and reflect back on what might be underlying your emotions.
3. Seek answers through meditation
Easier said than done for anyone living with irritability linked to depression, the act of simply sitting down and connecting with what you are feeling in your body can offer tremendous insights into your symptoms and their triggers. Find a quiet, relaxing place, get comfortable and take some deep breaths.
Don’t be surprised if the impatience you have been feeling with life in general also extends to initial attempts to slow down and scan your thoughts. Try to accept this feeling as part of a learning process, and note how your body reacts to it. Do you feel tense? Prickly? Like your heart is racing? See if you can start to consciously alleviate some of these feelings; this can help you practice keeping your temper in check in your interactions with others as well.
4. Reach out for professional support
Because irritability and external anger are often signs of more complex depression, it is important to get in touch with a mental health professional to talk through your symptoms and consider other potential avenues for support and treatment. There are many different options for managing symptoms of depression, and ultimately living a happier, less stressful life.
Beginning Your Healing Process with The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand is a unique residential facility that provides highly personalised mental health treatment to clients living with a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Located in scenic Thailand, a country that has seen no cases of locally-transmitted Covid-19 since mid-May, The Dawn offers a safe, relaxing environment in which to focus solely on your health and wellbeing.
The Dawn offers you compassionate, knowledgeable support to explore the nuances of your condition and understand how to live a happier life. Call us today to learn more.