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Irritability. Crankiness. Agitation. No matter what you call it, we all have moments when our fuse feels a little shorter and our bodies feel more tense than normal. Whether the experience of grumpiness is a fleeting emotion or a prolonged period of ill temperament, it can be a distasteful mood to both the sufferer and those in close proximity.

Like all feelings, grumpiness often has a root cause in something physical or psychological and understanding the source of the suffering is important in helping to relieve it. There are a number of factors that can increase irritability, so identifying which one is affecting you is the best way to feel better, faster. Distractions and quick fixes may only temporarily ease the feeling of grumpiness so it is important to have long-term strategies in place, especially if it is a common experience for you.

Here are 10 reasons you might be feeling a little crabby.

  1. Low blood sugar.You may have heard the term “hangry” used to describe hunger-based mood swings and irritability. There is a lot of science behind this portmanteau. A lack of glucose, or blood sugar, can cause a number of symptoms including lightheadedness and feelings of nervousness or irritability. If you find yourself getting easily annoyed or frustrated during the day, evaluate your eating habits. Are you skipping meals? Are you getting enough nutrition throughout the day? If you struggle with low or fluctuating blood sugar, you may need to keep some healthy snacks on hand to balance your mood.
  2. StressIt might seem obvious, but stress in one area of our lives can affect every other area. These effects might be small and unnoticeable at first, but if left unchecked, they can escalate and manifest as frustration, irritability, and annoyance. Sometimes it is easier to express anger at someone or something that is unrelated to the cause of our stress than it is to address the underlying issue. If you find yourself seething at work or losing your temper at home, take stock of where you may be avoiding other issues.
  3. DepressionIrritability is one of the early symptoms of depression, particularly in men, according to Medical News Today. This symptom may be experienced in conjunction with other signs of depression, including fatigue, difficulty concentrating, a lack of interest in once pleasurable activities, and feelings of guilt or worthlessness. If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, it is important to talk to a mental health professional before your symptoms become worse.
  4. Lack of sleep. When we are under-rested, our nervous systems often feel tense and on-edge. We may be particularly sensitive to light, sound, and smell and we may find we have less patience or capacity to deal with those around us. If you find yourself consistently irritable, it may be helpful to look at your sleep schedule and track how much sleep you are actually getting as well as the quality of that sleep. Even if you are going to bed at a reasonable hour, but tossing and turning or experiencing vivid dreams, it may be a sign that you are not achieving restful sleep.
  5. Premenstrual Syndrome or Perimenopause. Women who are experiencing PMS or perimenopause may experience irritability as their bodies and hormones go through rapid changes and symptoms that can be uncomfortable at best and incredibly painful at worst.
  6. Anxiety. Anxiety is another mental health condition that can lead to feelings of agitation and tension. If you regularly experience anxiety symptoms such as a fast heartbeat, racing thoughts, sweating, trouble sleeping or panic attacks, talk to your doctor or mental health provider about whether your irritability is anxiety-induced.
  7. Sugar or caffeine crash. Sugar and caffeine are two very common elements of the modern Western diet. Both provide a quick burst of energy and feelings of wellbeing that can help us power through certain tasks and lift our moods. However, once the effects of these substances subside, we can be left feeling more depleted and irritable than before. This can lead to an addictive cycle where more sugar or caffeine are then ingested to compensate. If you feel annoyed during particular times of the day, it may be due to your diet and your sugar or caffeine intake. Instead of relying on these substances, try substituting with a longer-lasting source of energy—such as protein or fat—and supplementing with energy-giving vitamins such as B12.
  8. Hormones. Fluctuating hormone levels are a major cause of irritability and hyper-sensitivity. Low testosterone levels can lead to irritability as can thyroid conditions that affect your hormonal balance. Changes in estrogen and progesterone can also affect serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and sleep cycles. Women who experience PMS are familiar with the mood swings and irritability associated with the days leading up to their period.
  9. Trauma or grief. When processing heavy emotions like grief or when dealing with a traumatic incident, many individuals experience a volatile internal state. It may be difficult to react calmly and patiently to minor inconveniences and setbacks, resulting in an overall feeling of agitation and tenseness.  
  10.  MedicationCertain medications may have a side effect of irritability. This side effect may be most noticeable when an individual first starts a certain medication or when they are tapering off of the medication.

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