Managing Irritability: What Triggers Your Anger and How to Cope

Young woman bending at the waist and shouting toward the camera.
Managing irritability can be one of the biggest challenges a human can face on their personal development journey. (Image: Khosro via Shutterstock)

Managing irritability can be one of the biggest challenges a human can face on their personal development journey. Feeling irritated is nothing out of the ordinary, and is a common emotional state in which people have a low tolerance for stimuli. This makes them easily bothered or upset by small things. Added worry, bad sleep, and changes in hormones are some of the things that can cause this.

Being irritable can make you respond strongly, making you more sensitive and worsening stress and frustration.

If you are very irritable for a long time, it could mean that you have a physical or mental health problem, like an infection, diabetes, anxiety, or depression. Along with being irritable, people may have trouble focusing, sweat, have a fast heartbeat, or breathe shallowly.

This piece talks about what makes people irritable, what sets them off, and how to deal with it healthily.

Managing irritability by understanding its causes

Life stress

The pressures of daily life, whether from work, relationships, or other obligations, can accumulate and deplete our mental bandwidth. Like a computer with too many applications running simultaneously, your brain can only handle so much before performance begins to drop. This mental overload often manifests as irritability, making you feel overwhelmed and more prone to emotional outbursts.

Irritability is often caused by things that stress people out in their daily lives
Irritability is often caused by things that stress you out in your daily life. (Image: Roman Samborskyi via Shutterstock)

Impact of sleep quality

The quality of your sleep significantly impacts your mood. Chronic sleep deprivation can exacerbate irritability, making even minor inconveniences feel insurmountable. Aim for restful sleep rather than sticking rigidly to a set number of hours, as individual needs may vary.


Anxiety often starts because of stressful events in life, like problems at work, studying for tests, or big changes in your life. This kind of anxiety usually goes away when the upsetting situation ends, but anxiety that lasts for a long time or gets worse can make it hard to do daily tasks, work efficiently, and get along with other people.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be diagnosed if someone has signs of excessive anxiety for at least six months, including:

  • Irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Potential panic attacks

Panic attacks involve sudden, intense fear without an apparent trigger, leading you to anticipate and avoid potential triggers, which can heighten feelings of being overwhelmed and irritability.

Phobia disorders

People with phobia disorders have strong fears or dislikes of certain things, people, or situations. When you see or think about the phobic stimulus, it can make you feel overwhelmed, fearful, or very angry.

People who have phobia disorders may feel very scared or anxious about many things, such as flying, heights, needles, blood, being outside, interacting with other people, and certain animals, like dogs or snakes.

Low blood sugar

Physical health issues, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), can also influence moods and cognitive function, manifesting as anxiety, dizziness, and irritability, especially in individuals managing diabetes.

Physical health issues such as low blood sugar can influence mood and manifest as things like dizziness or irritability.
Physical health issues, such as low blood sugar, can influence moods and manifest as things like dizziness or irritability. (Image: Orawan Pattarawimonchai via Shutterstock)

Strategies to manage irritability

Recognize the signs

Acknowledging when you feel irritable can help mitigate its impact. Instead of dismissing these feelings, identifying and describing them can reduce their intensity.

Breathing techniques

Deep breathing exercises can help manage acute irritability. Slow, deliberate breaths can lower cortisol levels and reduce the physical symptoms of stress.

Taking breaks

When overwhelmed, short breaks can rejuvenate your mental energy. Simple activities like a walk or listening to calming music can be effective.

Managing irritability: Lifestyle changes and seeking help

Persistent irritability might require lifestyle adjustments or even professional help. Addressing these issues with a healthcare provider can be crucial in improving your quality of life.

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