Ways to Control High Irritability

"Control" may be a critical word in "controlling" irritability, as the anxiety produced by the need to control events in your life may be a contributing factor in irritability. One technique is to think about managing irritability by developing some coping skills, thereby controlling your irritability. Another approach is to become aware of the underlying causes of high irritability and alleviate that state by avoiding its causes.

  1. Coping Mechanisms

    • Feeling very irritable, upset or short-tempered is extremely unpleasant. It builds on itself if it results in unfavorable behavior. For example, if we snap at family members, act rude to co-workers or become ineffective in our relationships or basic life tasks, it can only add to our irritability. So the first step is to develop coping skills that attempt to separate the way we feel (temporarily, one hopes) from the way we solve problems and treat others. This isn't to pretend we don't feel badly; it's just an attempt to acknowledge it and manage irritability in a way that doesn't spiral out of control.

      This may be a good thing speak to a psychologist about. Short of that, the best skill you can have is knowing to ask people for what you need. You can be honest. Tell them how you feel and what you think would help. If you don't feel equipped to do this, make a plan to remove yourself from a situation before your irritability gets out of control and you do or say something damaging. It can be helpful to visualize excusing yourself and knowing precisely at what point you need to remove yourself.

    Identifying the Causes

    • Solving extreme irritability problems is difficult because irritability interferes with the cognitive functions we need for problem solving. This is one of the reasons you should consider asking friends, family or health practitioners for help. What's important to understand is that while each of us has a unique temperament, extreme irritability is not a natural temperament. If you feel extremely temperamental, it is not a primary problem but the result of another problem. The best way to go about locating the problem is listing the likely causes, then treating them in a very organized fashion. Keeping a journal just for this purpose can be extremely helpful.

    Categories of Common Causes

    • There's a very long list of things that can cause irritability. Most underlying causes, however, fall into these categories: physical pain, emotional pain, stress, untreated health problems, mood or mental disorders and substance abuse. Some of these causes can interact, becoming a syndrome. For example, substance abuse can be caused by a health problem such as hypothyroidism, which in turn causes fatigue, stress and other health problems like diabetes. Within each of these categories is a long list of potential culprits. Some of them can be simple but confounding, such as a food allergy. Some can be complex such as fatigue caused by lupus, a poorly understood disease. Make a comprehensive list, and, with help from health professionals, try to pinpoint the causes of your irritability.

    Focus on Health

    • Don't just focus on what's wrong. Focus on health. What are the essential things you need to be healthy? Are any of them missing or deficient? You need rest and sleep, exercise, good nutrition — and you have emotional needs. As you're looking for problems, also look at each thing you need for your health and well-being. You may find that if you focus on health, you uncover the causes faster than if you look for the cause.

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