Lack of sleepiStock/Geber86
Make sleep a priority if you want to make sure your mood is as good as possible. Aim for seven to nine hours a night, rather than the five or six that many adults get. “Sleep is critical for proper mental health, so when you’re fatigued you get irritated,” says Steven Lamm, MD, clinical professor of medicine and director of the Tisch Center for Men’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center. “It’s like a baby crying—you put them to sleep and they feel better. It’s the same thing.” Check out these other signs you're not getting enough deep sleep.
When you start forgetting small things, like conversations or where you put your keys, it’s natural to become frustrated and snappish. “Generally I think of frustration as having to do with when needs don’t get satisfied,” says Jeffrey Deitz, MD, psychotherapist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the Frank Netter School of Medicine of Quinnipiac University and supervising psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Frustration can manifest with something that looks very much like irritability and outbursts to an outsider.” These are the best ways to connect with someone with dementia.
Chronic painiStock/Courtney Keating
Pain that seems totally unrelated to mood, like a sore back, can make you crankier than usual while you’re dealing with the discomfort. “People don’t want to acknowledge that they’re in pain, so instead you see irritability,” says Dr. Lamm. “They’re not themselves and their temper is short because they’re in pain.” Check out these secrets pain doctors won't tell you.
“There are many, many degrees of depression, from transient, which is part of normal human living, to clinical, which could severely impair someone’s life,” says Dr. Deitz. Low-level depression doesn’t get in the way of daily function like clinical depression, but it can make a person seem constantly grumpy and pessimistic, and they might be more likely to challenge you if you cross them, he says. Don't miss these signs you should think about seeing a therapist.
Worrying about a deadline or upcoming event is enough to put anyone on edge, but people with anxiety disorders are stuck with that feeling all the time. “When people are anxious, they are in a heightened state of arousal, and it takes less to make them jumpy,” says Dr. Deitz. “What might otherwise be somewhat irritating, in someone who’s anxious, they might react, or what you might call overreact, by screaming sharply.” Read these signs you could have an anxiety disorder.
“Caffeine is a chemical that has a powerful impact on the brain,” says Dr. Lamm. “Caffeine is an alerting agent, and when you withdraw from stimulation, you can be fatigued and irritable.” You might get cranky if you’re hooked on coffee but haven’t gotten your fix, or you could be on edge if you’ve downed too many cups of joe. Look out for these signs you drink too much coffee.
People with heart failure will be fatigued, and might get preoccupied with their breathing, medication, and health—enough to put anyone on edge. Plus, heart problems mess with blood flow to the brain, which is what controls your emotions. “Anything that compromises blood circulation to the brain, especially the frontal lobes, can produce irritability,” says Dr. Deitz. Keep an eye out for these other silent signs of congestive heart failure.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorderiStock/ShotShare
A lot of women experience mood swings a couple days before their periods, but if your premenstrual symptoms last more than a week, you could have PMDD, which is more intense. “Premenstrual syndrome is a perfect example of demonstrating how hormone variation results in mood swings,” says Dr. Lamm. “For some women it’s so severe and long-lasting, it’s called premenstrual disorder syndrome when they’re really troubled by it.” Find out what period problems you should never ignore.
Before some women start menopause, their hormones will begin fluctuating rapidly, leading to symptoms such as sleeplessness and hot flashes—and irritability. “There’s a rapid and significant fluctuation in female hormones, mainly progesterone,” says Dr. Deitz. “That’s the irritability hormone in women.” Find easy-to-miss signs of perimenopause here.
Attention deficit disorderiStock/J-Elgaard
A person with undiagnosed ADD might start to snap if you get on their case about finishing tasks when they’re finding it impossible to focus. “People who have ADD are irritable because they can’t complete tasks, and they’re being asked to do more than they’re capable of doing,” says Dr. Lamm. But don’t be too quick to diagnose—bipolar disorder that’s mistakenly treated as ADD can also cause snappiness because of how the medications react with the brain and nervous system, says Dr. Deitz. Click here for more conditions you might mistake for ADHD.