Irritability and Depression: Is There a Link? (2023)

Depression is commonly associated with sadness, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. But irritability and anger can be symptoms, too.

Irritability and Depression: Is There a Link? (1)Share on Pinterest

Most people recognize the most common symptoms of depression. However, depression doesn’t always manifest the same way in everyone. Some people also experience increased levels of irritability.

In some cases, heightened irritability can also lead to angry outbursts. Like other depression symptoms, treatment can help with irritability.

Danielle Roeske, PsyD, based in Litchfield, Connecticut, explains that people commonly associate depression with a flat affect. But this stereotypical symptom doesn’t always show up in everyone. Some people may have depression that looks different from others. Irritability and agitation, for instance, can go hand in hand with depression, too, says Roeske.

With mood disorders, adds Roeske, there’s an impairment in your ability to regulate emotions. Often, we think of depression as a mental health condition that involves feeling too little. In some cases, though, you can feel too much.

Still, it’s important to keep in mind that irritability doesn’t necessarily mean you have depression.

Other symptoms of depression include:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • persistent sadness or anxiety
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • low energy
  • problems sleeping
  • appetite changes
  • weight changes
  • restlessness
  • suicidal ideation
  • physical symptoms such as muscle pain and headaches

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available

You can access free support right away with these resources:

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.Call the Lifeline at 988 for English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Crisis Text Line.Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
  • Veterans Crisis Line.Call 988 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
  • Deaf Crisis Line.Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
  • Befrienders Worldwide.This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
(Video) How to Handle Anger and Irritability | (When Depression Comes with Anger)

At its core, depression makes it difficult for you to regulate your emotions. This often manifests as deep sadness but not always.

If you have a mood disorder like depression, you may find stimuli, such as socializing with others, overwhelming, which can cause agitation and result in irritability, says Roeske. She adds that you might tend to judge yourself, which can make the agitation worse.

“As much as [someone with irritability and depression] can seem frustrated with the outer world, they’re also typically equally frustrated with themselves or their reactivity to it,” says Roeske.

She adds that this can perpetuate a vicious cycle where you get frustrated because of your tendency to get irritated, then become increasingly irritable because you’re judging yourself.

In some cases, irritability can also escalate to aggression. This is even truer if you have an unregulated major depressive disorder, says Roeske.

Because irritability and angry outbursts are the typical emotions we associate with depression, it can be harder to spot depression if you have atypical symptoms like irritability or aggression.

“Often, we’ll see people miss what are signs of depression and personalize it as ‘I’m just an irritable person unable to handle my emotions properly’ without really understanding that it may actually be a symptom of depression,” explains Roeske.

The classic case of depression that you’re probably aware of is someone who has a flat affect and turns their anger inward. But this isn’t how all people experience depression.

(Video) 3 Signs Your Anger is ACTUALLY Depression or Anxiety

In some people, says Roeske, anger can also be turned outward.

Also, research from 2021 suggests that irritability may be a more common symptom in children and teens with depression.

There’s also evidence that irritability is more likely in people with depression than those with other mental health conditions such as conduct disorders and bipolar disorder.

So why might you experience irritability with depression when others don’t? More research is needed to understand the link between depression and irritability.

But certain things may increase the likelihood that you’ll experience it as a symptom, including a family history of depression and being exposed to negative parenting styles.

Medication can help with the symptoms of depression, including irritability.

A 2019 study found that treating people with major depressive disorder with antidepressants lowered their irritability levels. And those who experienced the most significant reduction in irritability in the first few weeks of treatment were more likely to experience remission.

This suggests that antidepressants may be a vital part of treating depression-related anger and irritability.

A mental health professional can help you figure out the best treatment options. This may include medication but may also involve therapy and, in some cases, anger management.

Why treatment helps

(Video) Depression and Irritability

Depression is a treatable mental health condition. Leaving depression symptoms like irritability untreated can make them worse.

But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression. What works for someone else might not be the right option for you. A professional can help you determine which treatment or combination of treatments is the right fit.

Roeske explains that managing irritability with depression is mainly dependent on the person, but some things that may help include:

Improving self-awareness

This doesn’t just include self-awareness of your irritability. It also involves understanding irritability as part of your depressive disorder.

“That gives us the opportunity to intervene on self-judgment and self-loathing that takes place, which actually makes it worse,” says Roeske.

Knowing your threshold

Try to prepare for situations that tend to agitate you.

If you know you’ll be in a crowded area or entering a long workday with few breaks, says Roeske, plan and take timeouts or use ground techniques, like breathing exercises, to center yourself.

Being compassionate

Roeske adds that self-compassion is another key ingredient in managing irritability. Try to avoid blaming yourself. Being irritable isn’t a failure or weakness on your part.

Reshaping your thinking

The distorted thinking that occurs with depression can worsen symptoms like irritability. This might include judging yourself for things outside of your control.

But changing your thought patterns doesn’t happen overnight, says Roeske. In addition to enlisting the help of others, like friends and family, she recommends trying on a different mindset for the day.

(Video) Ketones and Emotions: Depression, Anxiety & Irritability

Concrete actions like these can help build lasting change in your thinking patterns over time.

Enlisting the support of others

Changing distorted thinking doesn’t come easy, and repeatedly judging yourself can be incredibly isolating, says Roeske.

“A really important step in that process of getting out of that is breaking the isolation and actually forming connections with others,” she adds.

Getting professional help

You may also find it helpful to seek the help of a mental health professional if you’re not sure whether your irritability is linked to depression.

They can help you understand whether your irritability and agitation result from a depressive disorder or other mental health condition.

A mental health specialist can also help you address distorted thought patterns that make your depression symptoms worse.

Being irritable and angry when you have depression doesn’t make you a bad person. It also doesn’t mean you’re destined to have angry outbursts for the rest of your life.

The first step in addressing irritability is recognizing that it may be a symptom of depressive disorder or another mental health condition. Most people don’t think of anger and irritability when they think of depression.

People are more likely to assume they have a personality flaw. But irritability can manifest with depression and be treated like other depression symptoms.

It’s probably a good idea to seek the help of a mental health professional if you think your irritable moods may be linked to depression. They can help you figure out if you’re dealing with depression and how best to treat it.


Is irritability a form of depression? ›

Is Irritability a Sign of Depression? Depression is commonly associated with sadness, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. But irritability and anger can be symptoms, too. Most people recognize the most common symptoms of depression.

Is irritability a symptom of major depressive disorder? ›

Irritability is a diagnostic symptom of major depressive disorder (MDD) in children and adolescents but not in adults in both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) systems.

What mental illness is associated with irritability? ›

Irritability can be caused by physical and mental health conditions, including: depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) dementia.

What is the root cause of irritability? ›

Many factors can cause or contribute to irritability, including life stress, a lack of sleep, low blood sugar levels, and hormonal changes. Extreme irritability, or feeling irritable for an extended period, can sometimes indicate an underlying condition, such as an infection or diabetes.

Do antidepressants help with irritability? ›

Antidepressant SNRIs help relieve depression symptoms, such as irritability and sadness, but some are also used for anxiety disorders and nerve pain.

What can irritability be a symptom of? ›

Irritability may be a symptom of a number of things including stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use, anxiety, bipolar disorder, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), sleep deprivation, autism spectrum disorders, dementia, chronic pain, and schizophrenia.

Why am I always angry and irritated? ›

Unrelenting anger can sometimes be a sign of a mental health condition. While challenges with emotional regulation can be a symptom of several conditions, Ogle indicates that anger can often relate to: anxiety disorders. depression.

Do people with depression have short tempers? ›

People with depressive illness often have symptoms of overt or suppressed anger. Those with anger traits face exaggerated problem during symptomatic period of depression. Pharmacological management helps in control of depressive and anxiety symptoms, but rarely address anger symptoms.

Do people with depression get agitated easily? ›

Depression tends to bring hopelessness, sadness, or helplessness. However, some people also experience agitation, including symptoms of anxiety and restlessness.

What is the best medication for irritability? ›

Antidepressants for anger

SSRIs are commonly prescribed to treat conditions like depression and anxiety, but they've also been used to treat symptoms of anger or irritability. SSRIs that have been shown to help with anger include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), among others.

What body system causes irritability? ›

Irritability is common with medications, substances, and medical conditions that affect the central nervous system. It can also be associated with conditions that can deprive the brain of nutrients and oxygen, or a variety of other diseases that affect how well one feels.

What deficiency causes 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.

What vitamins help irritability? ›

Deficiencies in B vitamins, including Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), and B12, can lead to depression, anxiety, fearfulness, and irritability. B12 and folate (B9) are important vitamins for maintaining a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B12 and folate are needed for producing norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.

Is there a cure for irritability? ›

The best way to treat irritability is to address its underlying cause. If your doctor diagnoses you with a mental health condition, they may refer you to a professional for counseling. Prescription medications may be recommended to help control your mood.

What is the best mood stabilizer for irritability? ›

Lithium stands out for its preventative effects in bipolar disorder, but it also has important benefits outside of the manic-depressive symptom lists. It is the only mood stabilizer that significantly reduces the risk of suicide, and it reduces mortality in other ways as well.

Does Wellbutrin help with irritability? ›

That's because it helps to increase the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is in part responsible for the body's “fight or flight” response to anxiety-provoking events. For a person who has anxiety but not depression, Wellbutrin can increase anxious feelings, including: Restlessness. Irritability.

What medication helps with agitation and irritability? ›

Haloperidol and lorazepam are the most widely used agents for acute agitation, are effective in a wide diagnostic arena and can be used in medically compromised patients. Haloperidol can cause significant extrapyramidal symptoms, and has rarely been associated with cardiac arrhythmia and sudden death.

What is a natural remedy for irritability? ›

One: Nature provides a lot of herbal remedies for irritation, says Ayurvedic Cure, chamomile, peppermint, hops, St. John's Wort, and lavender all can help us handle stress more calmly. Valerian root, says Ayurvedic Cure, has sedative qualities, so it not only calms but may help you sleep.

Should I see a therapist for irritability? ›

Because irritability is an emotion that is difficult to control, it's important to reach out for the help of a licensed therapist when it becomes overwhelming. Therapists who specialize in irritability teach clients how to cope with their heightened state of emotions.

What vitamin deficiency causes mood swings? ›

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate may be linked to depression.

Why am I so annoyed with everyone? ›

If everything annoys you all of the time, that's actually very normal, and the reason why probably has to do with your old friend, anxiety. "If someone is an anxious person, they're generally irritable and can feel thrown by things easily," says Andrea Bonior, PhD, clinical psychologist.

Why do I lose my temper so easily? ›

A short temper can also be a sign of an underlying condition like depression or intermittent explosive disorder (IED), which is characterized by impulsive and aggressive behavior. If your anger has become overwhelming or is causing you to hurt yourself or those around you, it's time to find professional help.

Why am I so irritable around my family? ›

Causes. The factors that lead a person to hate their family or members of their family can vary. Toxic behaviors, abuse, neglect, or conflict are just a few factors that can lead to feelings of animosity. Finding ways to better understand the causes for such feelings can help you better cope with the situation.

What personality type tends depression? ›

People high in neuroticism (very emotionally sensitive) and introverts are two personality types more likely to experience negative thoughts research finds. In addition, being introverted is linked to spontaneously remembering more negative life events.

Are depressed people snappy? ›

Depression can cause us to feel increasingly irritable. This can lead to us snapping at people, which is often followed by a wave of guilt. We might not be able to explain our irritability or know what we can do to reduce our snappiness.

Can untreated depression turn into anger? ›

If this seems to be an ongoing cycle, your anger may stem from depression. Without treatment, getting angry may be one of the few ways you've found to cope with your feelings. And without help, you may feel stuck in your emotional state.

Is irritability mania or depression? ›

People with bipolar disorder often experience irritability. This emotion is common during manic episodes, but it can occur at other times too. A person who's irritable is easily upset and often bristles at others' attempts to help them.

What drugs cause extreme irritability? ›

Stimulants Can Cause Aggressive Behavior

This means cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine and synthetics nicknamed “bath salts” and “spice.” They all cause a person to feel energetic and euphoric. The severe downside of these drugs is that they cause paranoia, aggression and even delusional behavior.

Does magnesium help with irritability? ›

Magnesium might help. If you find yourself irritable, stressed or downright depressed, this critical mineral may help you get out of your funk. Studies suggest adequate magnesium intake can calm stress, improve mood and enhance sleep.

Is irritability a symptom of anxiety? ›

Irritability is a symptom of anxiety

When a person is experiencing anxiety, they will often be more irritable than usual. It is a common symptom of many types of anxiety disorder. With their body and mind overwhelmed with worry, the person can feel stressed and depleted of energy.

Why do I snap so easily? ›

It could be something as simple as being hungry or tired. Or, maybe something recently happened in your life that has you feeling scared, angry, or stressed out. Mental health struggles can also make you irritable, so if you haven't taken one of our mental health test yet, try that.

Which type of stress is most likely the cause of irritability? ›

Episodic Effects of Acute Stress

Emotional distress —anger or irritability, anxiety and depression, short-tempered, impatient, tense.

Is irritability a form of anxiety? ›

Irritability is a symptom of anxiety

It is a common symptom of many types of anxiety disorder. With their body and mind overwhelmed with worry, the person can feel stressed and depleted of energy. This can make it difficult for them to shrug off or ignore things as they normally would be able to do.

Is irritability a feeling or emotion? ›

In summary, irritability is a mood, and anger is its defining emotion. When anger enters the person's awareness, it is called a feeling, and when observable to others, such as clinicians, anger is described as an affect.

What are natural mood stabilizers for anger and irritability? ›

Adaptogens, exercise, nutrition, meditation or mindfulness, omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin D are some examples of natural mood stabilizers.

What is a bipolar meltdown? ›

Bipolar Triggers and Warning Signs

Bipolar disorder features extreme shifts in mood that are unpredictable and often disruptive to daily functioning. Changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, emotions, and behaviors accompany the mood swings.

What does depressive mania look like? ›

Sudden and severe changes in mood, such as going from being joyful to being angry and hostile. Restlessness. Rapid speech and racing thoughts. Increased energy and less need for sleep.

What hormone causes irritability? ›

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.

What is it called when you get irritated easily? ›

Irritability is a feeling of agitation. Although, some describe “agitation” as a more severe form of irritability. Regardless of the term you use, when you're irritable, you're likely to become frustrated or upset easily. You might experience it in response to stressful situations.

Is irritability a trauma response? ›

If you have PTSD, you may be more likely to react to any stress with "full activation." You may react as if your life or self were threatened. This automatic response of irritability and anger in those with PTSD can create serious problems in the workplace and in family life.

Why do I suddenly get angry so easily? ›

What causes anger issues? Many things can trigger anger, including stress, family problems, and financial issues. For some people, anger is caused by an underlying disorder, such as alcoholism or depression. Anger itself isn't considered a disorder, but anger is a known symptom of several mental health conditions.

What can I drink for irritability? ›

For when you're stressed: Chamomile tea latte

Chamomile tea has been shown to ease anxiety and irritability, while milk from grass-fed cows contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fat that increases blood flow to the brain and counteracts the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.


1. Extreme irritability and its impact on physical and mental health
2. Irritability & Depression | Conditions Explained By Dr. Collins
(Christopher J. Collins)
3. Anger and aggression as depressive symptoms
(Men's Health Research)
4. Depression Anger Anxiety Connecting The Dots
(Doc Snipes)
5. Sadness and Anger: Agitated Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder
(Dr. Daniel Fox)
6. Learn Why Aggression, Irritability, and Depression Are Common After Brain Injury
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Last Updated: 02/26/2023

Views: 5939

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kimberely Baumbach CPA

Birthday: 1996-01-14

Address: 8381 Boyce Course, Imeldachester, ND 74681

Phone: +3571286597580

Job: Product Banking Analyst

Hobby: Cosplaying, Inline skating, Amateur radio, Baton twirling, Mountaineering, Flying, Archery

Introduction: My name is Kimberely Baumbach CPA, I am a gorgeous, bright, charming, encouraging, zealous, lively, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.