We can all be a bit grumpy or annoyed from time to time, it’s natural, we’re only human. This being said, sometimes we can be a bit more irritable than usual, seemingly for no apparent reason. This might be that there’s a considerable overlap between mood swings, irritability and anxiety.
As with a lot of physical symptoms of anxiety, the triggers lie within our caveman brain. This is the survival-driven part of our brain that our newer, rational cortex grew on top of. Its primary concern is keeping us alive, so when our brain perceives a threat, it releases these stress chemicals and activates a response called the fight, flight or freeze response. The stress hormone cortisol or the chemical adrenaline are released and this puts our body on high alert, and as a result, our body prepares to either fight, flight or freeze.
How Can Anxiety Cause Irritability?
There’s a few reasons as to why anxiety can cause irritability, the first being that when we’re in fight, flight or freeze mode our entire body becomes hyperstimulated. This means that we’re more sensitive to everything around us, overwhelming our senses. Constant bombardment of this kind can cause us to be confused, and as a consequence, can increase irritability.
Another reason is that when we’re in survival mode, our body is operating at an extremely high level with our heart rate, energy levels and breathing massively increased. Once this mode is after, we can be really fatigued due to the drop in blood sugar levels, something that has also been linked to increased irritability.
How Can I Stop This Symptom?
As this symptom stems from our fight, flight or freeze response, the main thing that we can do to combat it is to focus on our breathing and allow it to become deeper and longer. This should calm our central nervous system, distract our mind from the perceived threat, and deactivate our fight, flight or freeze response allowing our system to become less sensitive and allowing our mood to level out.
Of course, in order to prevent the symptoms of anxiety occurring in the first place, you need to manage or build strategies to tackle your anxiety. There are several options available including CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, medication and group therapy. If you’re unsure, please contact your GP for more information.