Irritability is an experience most people can relate with. Everyone has had a day after not getting enough sleep where traffic was just more annoying and our threshold for tolerating frustration was a bit lower. Irritability in a mental health treatment setting is often addressed in adolescents but can be overlooked in adults. When diagnosing depression in adults, irritability is not considered a core symptom but 40-50% of adults with depression report experiencing irritability more than half the time during their depressive episode. People who experience irritability tend to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression at a younger age, experience worse symptoms compared to others, have a lower quality of life, and have a more difficult time in treatment. When people focus on improving irritability early in treatment and notice that it gets reduced, they tend to have better treatment outcomes.
So what does this mean for you? You may notice yourself losing patience with others and getting angry while driving. You may notice yourself having a harder time interacting with others or tolerating difficult tasks (possibly at work or school). You may not have thought to mention this to your therapist or psychiatrist because many people think that irritability is not related to depression and/or anxiety. However, you should speak up! Your quality of life is important, and you may have an easier time in treatment and get more out of the experience if you can discuss these symptoms. If you are not sure that what you are experiencing is irritability, feel free to bring it up with your therapist or doctor and see what they have to say!
Marissa Ferrito, M.S.