“Bad temper is its own scourge. Few things are more bitter than to feel bitter. A man’s venom poisons himself more than his victim.” (Charles Buxton)
Boy, could I write a book about being cranky. It’s a miserable feeling to be in a bad mood all the time. For one thing, I think it is a vicious circle. You feel irritable, then you realize you’re irritable, which only makes it worse.
Also, it creates a toxic environment for those close to you. I just had a conversation about this with my husband this morning. You (meaning, me sometimes) need to realize how your crankiness affects your loved ones.
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It affects millions with anxiety, and with other mental illnesses as well.
My story of anxiety and irritability
I am one cranky piece of shit sometimes. Alright, back up. I can’t help it. At least, in the sense of, my irritability is a side effect of a mental illness that’s outside of my control. More about the ways in which I can help it later.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2010, and one of the things that led me to be diagnosed was a drastic change in personality. I’ve always been a relatively tender and sensitive person. But in 2009, I became negatively tender. I think these personality traits are mostly strengths, but there is a point when they can be toxic.
I was so overly sensitive that it was making me see drama everywhere, and I began sabotaging relationships that were important to me. I feel so much shame from that time, because it was so needless. If only I’d recognized sooner what was going on.
I was also starting to be crankier with my, at the time, fiancé. We married in 2010, and over the past ten years, he has proven to be the most amazingly supportive partner I could ask for.
Where does anxiety play into all this?
You might not realize this, but anxiety and bipolar disorder can have a lot of similar symptoms. In fact, I have been wondering recently whether my initial bipolar diagnosis was even correct.
Racing thoughts? Check.
Feeling agitated? Check.
Feeling restless? Check.
But that’s a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say, that anxiety and irritability are grumpy little bedfellows.
How anxiety and irritability are linked
According to Healthline:
“When someone is feeling anxious, part of their sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. This kicks off a cascade of effects throughout the body, such as a racing pulse, sweaty palms, shaky hands and dry mouth. These symptoms occur because your brain believes you have sensed danger, and it is preparing your body to react to the threat. Your body shunts blood away from your digestive system and toward your muscles in case you need to run or fight. It also increases your heart rate and heightens your senses. While these effects would be helpful in the case of a true threat, they can be debilitating if the fear is all in your head.” (Cited sources: Generalized anxiety disorder & Anxiety and arousal)
So, basically, when you are feeling anxious, it causes a part of your brain to work harder than normal. It makes your body feel like it’s in danger, even in the absence of a legitimate threat.
For anyone who lives with irritability, that is an all too common feeling. When you get triggered, you can feel it. That feeling of needing to run, and react, before the thoughts catch up with you. It’s more commonly known as the Fight or Flight sensation. Your muscles tense. In my case, I sometimes feel a little light-headed.
So, remember, when you feel irritable, it’s not your fault. Your brain and body are simply reacting to your anxiety in a less than ideal way.
How to spot it in a friend
Maybe you’re not the anxious one. Maybe your friend is suffering from anxiety. As I mentioned in my previous post about anxiety, it is incredibly common. 40 million adults live in the United States live with anxiety per year, so it is likely that your friend is one of them.
Here are some common symptoms of irritability:
- racing heart
- fast breathing
If your friend has even one or more of these, they are possibly living with some form of irritability related to anxiety. Speaking from experience, these are awful feelings to live with, and they can be the reason that many anxious people find themselves isolating themselves when they’re unwell. They don’t want to be seen as cranky or unpleasant.
You can kick irritability to the curb
Remember about how earlier I said there are things you CAN do to control how irritable you are?
Yes, it’s not your fault that you have anxiety. But it is important to be in control of your health. Once you start to identify the symptoms you’re experiencing, you can begin to take action steps to improve them.
Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize the symptoms of your anxiety. For me, it is all about self care. I find that I am generally happier and react less quickly to stressors when I am getting regular and adequate self care.
There is a lot of information about self care out there these days. Some of it good, and some a little misleading. One important thing to keep in mind, is that self care needs to be personal to you. Every soul is different and needs different things. So, don’t try to force pedicures if they don’t make you feel more relaxed.
Maybe you’re like me and need a good true crime documentary binge in a dark room, alone.
Part of self care is making sure you are, surprise, taking care of yourself. Here are a few things you can try to help minimize your irritability.
- Cut down on caffeine
- Exercise more
- Start journaling
- Practice meditation
Whatever the case, just know that you are definitely not alone. Millions of people face anxiety and irritability, and it is possible to find relief.
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