Irritability is a behavior or response to people or circumstances that cause annoyance or frustration. While it can be a normal temporary symptom of stress or anxiety, severe or persistent irritability may be an indication of an underlying disorder. Irritability can be related to psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders, or substance abuse. Drug, alcohol, or tobacco withdrawal can also cause irritability. Irritability can also be related to medication side effects or chronic medical conditions. Medications and substances can directly affect the nervous system, which can result in irritability. Medical conditions that affect the central nervous system, such as dementia, brain tumors, meningitis, and stroke, can cause irritability. Irritability can also result from conditions that can deprive the brain of nutrients and oxygen, such as cardiovascular and lung diseases.


Irritability may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect behaviors may also involve other body systems.

Irritability may accompany other psychological or cognitive symptoms including:

  • Anxiety, aggression or agitation
  • Confusion, forgetfulness or disconnectedness
  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Difficulty with memory, thinking, talking, comprehension, writing or reading
  • Heightened arousal or awareness
  • Mood depression or elevation
  • Mood instability
  • Personality changes
  • Poor judgment
  • Social withdrawal

 Types of Close Irritability

There are two types of close irritability:

  • Physically Close – This is when you become more irritable when someone is nearby. It’s the reaction to feeling like you are without space to do this on your own, or like there is someone around you that is causing you more pressure and possibly making your anxiety worse.
  • Emotionally Close – This is when you are more irritable around those that you care about. In a way, this type of irritability can cause added stress, because you regret the things you say and it can drive a wedge between you and the person you care for.