Increased irritability

Increased irritability

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Irritability describes reactions of the body and mind in social relationships and to stimuli from the environment. We absorb stimuli through the senses, the nerves pass them on to the brain, which processes them. This is not a conscious, but an unconscious process. Increased irritability and aggressiveness are the reactions when the brain is overloaded because it absorbs too many stimuli.

Normal irritability

Occasional irritability is normal: cloudy weather, a few glasses too much, an empty stomach or anger, lack of sleep or brooding over a problem make us more sensitive to stimuli than usual, and the ringing of the phone seems like a jackhammer.

This increased irritability in normal cases sometimes has purely physical reasons, such as the lack of vitamins in the cold season, which we can easily prevent with broccoli, sauerkraut and fresh fruit - or we overload the brain with different tasks at the same time: when I am on concentrate a text, and at the same time the children demand my attention, I want to clean the staircase and also have an appointment with my landlord, the brain sets different patterns in action at the same time. This not only costs energy, it leads to dissonance. This is where organization and structure help the best, i.e. doing the different things one after the other or, if possible, combining them.

The increased irritability serves as a "guide". Instead of straining our brains with what we are supposed to "do" here and now, we calm our nerves when we do what we can and want to do here and now. Putting yourself under pressure not only puts pressure on our mood, but also blocks us from doing the tasks we put pressure on us to do.

Physical and psychological reasons for this non-pathological irritability work hand in hand: we work all night and are becoming increasingly unproductive; our bodies lack sleep. Instead of a yoga exercise for relaxation, we work half an hour before breakfast; Instead of starting the morning with a glass of orange juice and a walk in nature, we continue to work, just to have "given everything" two hours later.

The brain receives the message: the alarm is on. It is gearing up to fight, attack or flee. Even with our Stone Age ancestors, this danger program was important in order to get a saber-toothed tiger to flee, but not to perform complex tasks, for example to manufacture a tool.

The hormone change during menopause can make many women easily irritable, as do the days before menstruation. These are all normal reactions to a change in hormone levels.

Pathological irritability

However, irritability can also occur as a side effect of dangerous diseases, such as inflammation of the brain or brain, stroke, brain abscess, blood poisoning, and poisoning from alcohol or other drugs. Then riding is often a harbinger of worse symptoms: loss of memory and control, brain damage, limited judgment, and even suicide. It only helps to treat the disease here.

Irritability is not a disease, but often a symptom of illnesses, psychological disorders such as depression or borderline, as well as psychosomatic ones, for example bulemia or anorexia like Attention Deficit Disorder, but also physical ones such as polio, liver cirrhosis, diabetes, rabies or flu Infections.

Irritability manifests itself in inadequate aggressiveness, rapid heartbeat, trembling of the hands, insecurity, sweating, lack of concentration, twitching eyes and anxiety attacks. The voice and body language change.

Nerve overload

Exceptional irritability is mostly due to nerve overload due to negative stress or negative environmental stimuli. The classic burnout, for example, used to be called nervous breakdown.

The nerves can be overwhelmed by pure environmental stimuli, for example permanent noise, glaring light or a dripping tap: For example, a tried and tested method of torture is to let a prisoner drip water on the same area of ​​his skin for hours. Hunger, heat, cold, generally all unpleasant sensations of the body, cause increased irritability.

But psychological states also lead to increased irritability: fear, insecurity, emotional pressure at work, in relationships, through deaths, separations and other personal disasters. Traumatized people are hypersensitive, especially to situations that remind of the traumatizing event. Depression also manifests itself in irritability.

Physical irritability

Physical irritability is mostly due to an infection. The infected part of the body reacts more sensitively to the stimuli of the surroundings: inflamed eyes water with light, an infected wound hurts when touched, and the skin is particularly sensitive to influenza infections.

Physical pain is usually associated with severe irritability: if someone dislocates their shoulders, sprains their ankles, suffers from headaches or toothache, they often behave overstimulated, and secondly, the corresponding parts of the body are hypersensitive.

Disorders of the thyroid gland and a low serotonin level lead to an imbalance of the hormones, and this is expressed in high irritability.

Negative stress

Stress manifests itself in sleep disorders, inner restlessness, lack of drive, problems concentrating, and also in cardiovascular diseases.

People who suffer from negative stress are overexcited: they themselves perceive the stress factors as an excessive burden. The trigger for such negative stress is loneliness, unsatisfactory relationships with other people, social insecurity, fear of losing one's job or apartment, but especially the demands of the so-called performance society.

People are suggested that they are not enough the way they are. At the same time, they should always be in a good mood, earn good money, i.e. work harder and harder, and at the same time be an exemplary family man or a caring mother.

When they work 50 hours a week, they feel guilty about not being there enough for the family. When they take care of the children, the pressure is on their neck, not doing enough for their professional development. Even the holiday becomes a task to offer the partner and the children as much as possible in the shortest possible time.

Inoculated constraints keep the brain on alert, because something is always lacking the supposedly necessary perfection. Anyone who is doing the best to relax, namely lying on the sofa, is troubled by a guilty conscience: I have to do more sports, I have to eat less chocolate, I have to lose weight, I have to earn money, I can't let myself go .

Unfulfillable demands in every area mean de-identification with oneself. Those determined by others measure their intrinsic value against the supposed success of others, the whispering of the advertising industry; people suffer from whispering which they no longer perceive as such. Life coach Martin Wehrle writes: "Our life is shrinking into a project that aims to optimize the imperfect self."

The logical gap between the current state of the individual and the requirements to be perfect, i.e. to be different in every area than you are, is tearing people apart. The brain perceives this dissonance as stress. Only those who torture themselves will find paradise in the end in the form of a home and a full account.

The neo-liberal promise pretends that whoever makes an effort can make the big breakthrough, creating millions of stressed people who run after this deception. In globalization, we are also faced with unmanageable opportunities, so that we can fail at every nook and corner and in all likelihood do so, because firstly, success largely depends on chance, secondly, it does not necessarily mean material prosperity, and the number of billionaires third, is extremely low.

Seemingly endless possibilities, combined with the feeling of failure if you are not the richest, most beautiful and present in all media, creates constant stress. Because the brain is overwhelmed with the excess of what it is supposed to do.

This negative stress does not arise, as is often assumed, from "overwork", but from senselessness. If you are unable to say no and do things that you don't really want, the excessive irritability shows that you are doing the wrong thing. Exaggerated and foreign goals and the spasmodic desire to achieve these hallucinations necessarily lead to stress, failure and thus even greater stress to reach the next goal just as spasmodically because the person who failed due to wrong claims feels like a failure.

However, people who do what suits them even get into the so-called "flow". They forget time during their work; They work on their projects day and night without feeling tired or irritated.

Wehrle writes: "The greater the interface between your desires and your actions, the more you will be able to enjoy your happiness in the present - instead of fooling yourself into an uncertain" afterlife "before or after death."

Psyche and body go hand in hand with negative stress. For example, noise is considered a typical source of nerve strain. There are people who are more susceptible to noise through their disposition, but the mental state is the decisive factor in many cases. The lonely old man who calls the police every time the students in the neighboring house turn up the music at night probably suffers primarily from his loneliness and envies the young people that they are having fun. Subjectively, the noise bothers him.

Studies show that the same triggers as noise from a construction site, from people who are involved in their work, are perceived less or not as annoying than those who are dissatisfied with their work in particular and their life situation in general.

Psychological pressure and tension cause stress. The irritability is a warning signal in case of negative stress. Persistent negative stress can burn out people; this total exhaustion is called burnout.

In evolution, stress is life-sustaining. The stress hormone cortisol increases the metabolism, the body provides more energy in the form of glucose, we can react more quickly psychologically. Cortisol also strengthens the immune system and inhibits inflammation. Cortisol is therefore a hormone for dangers: It puts us on alert when a predator attacks and protects us from injuries.

Unfortunately, our body also produces cortisol for stress factors that have nothing to do with such struggles: emotional pressure, too little exercise, lack of sleep and psychological problems - all of this means that the hormone prepares us for an emergency.

When the body continuously releases cortisol, the hormonal balance gets out of balance. The organism assumes a permanent state of emergency, there are chain reactions of noradrenaline, adrenaline and serotonin and in the end there is a serotonin deficiency. This leads to tiredness, lack of motivation, migraines, sleep disorders, anxiety, eating disorders and depression.

If you react overexcited because you are dissatisfied with your life, clarity about your frustration will help you to change this life yourself step by step.

Irritability for depression

Those suffering from clinical depression are not necessarily easily irritable. Depression manifests itself in too weak reactions to external stimuli. However, if people with unipolar major depression react excessively irritably, this is an alarm signal because it indicates a chronic course of the disease.

Psychiatrists from the University of California examined more than 536 patients and sometimes observed them up to 31 years. 292 of the clients were irritable at the start of the study. The phase of the first severe depression lasted almost twice as long as that of the less irritable.

As a result, the irritable patients showed insufficient impulse control, and one in ten even acted anti-social. The irritable subjects showed side effects significantly more frequently than the less irritable ones. 53% of the irritable drugs abused or fell victim to alcohol compared to 37% of the "quiet". 40% of the irritable suffered from anxiety disorders, but only 26% of the less irritable. 88% of the irritable people showed at least one mental disorder, but only 73% of the other severely depressed people.

Californian psychiatrists believe it is imperative to identify anger and aggressiveness in episodes of severe depression and to identify those affected. Because the therapy must be specifically aimed at coping with aggression.


Increased irritability is an early warning symptom for bipolar disorders, in both a manic and a depressive phase.

Depression announces itself through lack of energy, lack of joy and lack of joy, low self-esteem and self-doubt, brooding around, sleep disorders, concentration problems, sexual listlessness, but also through tension, restlessness and irritability.

A mania announces itself by the opposite: racing thoughts, euphoria, sharper perception, greater willingness to make contact and increased self-confidence. Tension, restlessness and increased irritability up to violent conflicts are also the first signs here.


Bipolar disorders are associated with psychotic conditions. But others suffering from psychosis are also easily irritable. Restlessness, nervousness and irritability are generally an early warning sign of an ascending psychosis. Those affected are very sensitive and are slightly irritated; they lose their appetite, neglect themselves, lose their interests and energy; feelings change, they dull or change rapidly.

The concentration is disturbed, psychotics are easily distracted, the performance drops; they withdraw socially, they have problems in relationships and break contacts; they change their interests, their perception changes as well as their experience.

For example, they perceive smells differently than before, as do colors; they believe the environment and themselves have changed; they mean to see, hear and taste things that others would not be able to perceive.

They feel watched and relate to what is happening in the outside world, and they think others are influencing their thoughts.

Other mental disorders

Some mental disorders go hand in hand with tremendous irritability, which manifests itself as aggression against yourself and others. These include borderline syndrome, paranoid schizophrenia and dissocial personality.

Borderliners lack a stable self-image. That is why they project their own shares onto other people, but at the same time feel one with them. For the object of the projection, this means that the border liner absolutely has to control and attack it. The Borderliner subordinates his own hatred to the other person and sees himself as his victim.

Paranoid schizophrenics perceive their environment as distorted and feel persecuted by powers that supposedly only perceive them. In other people they therefore see dark forces against which they protect themselves by all means; Aggression up to open violence are the result.

Dissocial people lack empathy. So they do not suffer from increased irritability, but on the contrary are blunted compared to stimuli. However, the result is similar: Anyone who is slightly overexcited also expresses this through aggression. Dissocial people also become aggressive very quickly, but they want to assert their dominance.

Traumatized people react extremely to stimuli that reactivate the trauma. The triggering experience is firmly burned in the memories, and associations set the pattern into action. For example, refugees from Syria got anxiety attacks because they thought they recognized their torturers from IS in Germany; For example, people who have suffered a traffic accident panic when they overtake a truck on the highway; War traumatized people who survived a bombing got a racing heart during the fireworks on New Year's Eve.

For all mental illnesses that are associated with increased irritability, it is of little use to treat the irritability. Psychotherapy and medications that alleviate the disease are helpful here.

However, with all of these diseases, behavioral therapy includes either exercising stimuli that put the person concerned in a state of emergency or avoiding these stimuli.

High sensitivity

Highly sensitive are more easily irritable than average sensitive because they have to process more stimuli. They perceive stimuli more deeply than others, they feel moods in social relationships more intensely, they analyze more thoroughly and they think in a more complex way. Their pain sensation is increased, they are easily enthusiastic and have many interests; her long-term memory exceeds the average. They think very intuitively, they feel experiences long and intensively, they experience art and music intensely.

The fact that they absorb stimuli intensely often makes them appear introverted, they easily close themselves to others, they react strongly to medication, alcohol and caffeine, and they suffer to a great extent from external determinations such as pressure to perform.

Under time pressure and external constraints, their mental memories are slightly overloaded because they have to process a high density of information.

High sensitivity is not a disease that needs to be treated - on the contrary. Highly sensitive people have skills that less sensitive people do not and therefore need a job and a social environment in which they can develop them. These are above all creative activities in which they work towards a deadline, but organize their work structure themselves. Even more important than for "normal sensitive" is an environment in which the stimuli do not overwhelm them and understanding partners who accept that the highly sensitive disappears in his room for a few hours.

Thyroid disease

Diseases of the thyroid announce themselves among other things through irritability. Disease means either over or under function of the thyroid gland: the neck size increases, the affected person feels that he has a “foreign body” in the throat; he has a racing heart and an accelerated pulse. He loses weight or gains weight without changing his eating habits; hair falls out; his skin dries out, the hair becomes brittle and the fingernails break. He feels tired and without drive. His muscles hurt and he feels weak. He has constipation or diarrhea. He is nervous and restless inside. He can't sleep well. It freezes easily. His sexual interest declines. His hands are shaking.

An underactive thyroid can be treated with hormone tablets. The person concerned takes this L-thyroxine with a daily dose of between 100 and 200 milligrams. The doctor starts with a low dose and increases it slowly, because the body has to get used to a normal hormone level again, and a high dose can lead to an overactive thyroid. Those affected take these hormones for the rest of their lives.

Eating in the stomach prevents the stomach from absorbing L-thyroxine. Therefore, the patient takes the hormone at least half an hour before breakfast.

It takes several months for the treatment to start. The artificially produced hormone has no side effects.

Iodine deficiency is often the beginning of an underactive thyroid, but can also lead to problems without these long-term consequences. The thyroid gland gains thyroxine from iodine, which the body cannot produce itself. Iodine deficiency causes the thyroid to enlarge; the victim has a goiter.

The iodine-containing hormones T 3 and T 4 (thyroxine) are crucial for the development of the brain. A baby who is deficient in these hormones suffers from intellectual disabilities to cretinism. If the mother consumes too little iodine during pregnancy, the newborn suffers from iodine deficiency. Chronic iodine deficiency reduces the intelligence quotient, according to several independent studies. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable brain damage worldwide.

According to estimates, the Germans consume on average only half as much iodine per day as would be correct from a medical point of view. Germany is an iodine deficient country. The arable soils in Central Europe receive little iodine, as this has grown out of the soil in the course of the earth's history. A poorly functioning thyroid was therefore a hallmark of the rural population in historical times, and in the 1990s there were still 100,000 thyroid operations per year.

The most important food to adequately get iodine in this country is sea fish, because it contains the most iodine among our food. Iodized salt is also recommended, there are also algae products and iodine tablets; however, they should be used moderately, otherwise the thyroid gland will be overproduced.

Serotonin deficiency and serotonin syndrome

Serotonin is a messenger that brightens our mood. It transmits signals to the brain and works in the cardiovascular and intestinal systems. Serotonin acts on the blood vessels in the cardiovascular system and controls the intestinal perstalsis.

A deficiency in serotonin is shown by depression, fear and cravings, but also by increased irritability and aggressiveness. If there is no serotonin, the balance between sleep and wakefulness gets out of joint, and migraines are also a consequence.

Depression can be treated with reuptake inhibitors for serotonin. So the serotonin in the brain can work longer and better. This increases the level of serotonin in the brain. These inhibitors also work against anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

An excess of serotonin also has a negative effect. We call it serotonin syndrome. This manifests itself in anxiety, increased tension and twitching of the muscles, tremors and also in increased irritability.


Rabies is a viral infection that is transmitted from animals to humans. The main transmitters of this Lyssavirus to humans are canids in Eurasia, i.e. dogs, wolves and foxes, and in South America the vampire bats.

Rabies is common worldwide, except on some islands. In Germany she is considered defeated; this is mainly thanks to baits for foxes that contain vaccine preparations.

The most common type of vampire bat is the common vampire, Desodus rotundus. Its range of prey ranges from mammals and humans to birds. Diaemus youngi, the white-wing vampire, prefers birds, also attacks mammals. The comb-tooth vampire, Diphylla ecaudata, specializes in birds as prey. ”

Vampire bats prefer areas of the body that can be easily reached by them. In cattle they hang on the withers and bite on the side of the neck; when attacking from the ground they prefer the region above the hooves, with lying animals vulva or udder. Before the bite, the skin is ingested by licking. Then a skin fold is clamped between the razor-sharp incisors and a skin flap is abruptly separated.

The damage a larger prey suffers from the bite and blood loss is minor. However, flies like to lay their eggs in the wounds, which can lead to ulcers. There is a risk of infections when biting and licking blood. In South America, the vampire bats are the main transmitters of rabies

The rabies virus migrates through the nervous system. It eats three centimeters a day and reaches the brain after several days. It destroys the victim's mind and body.

The disease has three phases. The first stage is characterized by shyness, nervousness and irritability. Light, touch, warmth and cold cause pain to the infected. The sick cannot swallow and saliva flows from the mouth. Sick people react aggressively when they see water and despair because they cannot drink it. They are unable to do this due to their swallowing paralysis.

The pain is unbearable, the organism collapses, the sick often become aggressive. Kick and spit, bite and roar. There are also hallucinations, the neck is paralyzed, the sufferer wanders about restlessly. In the eyes of past witnesses, the sick behaved like wild animals.

This second stage is what doctors call raging anger. Finally, the limbs and facial muscles of the patient become rigid. Often, those affected howl like dogs because their vocal cords are paralyzed.

The disease still leads to death today if it is not stopped in the incubation phase. However, a pediatrician suspected that the body of the virus could become a master. The plague was only going too quickly for that. He placed patients in an artificial coma so that the organism could develop antibodies. The first four subjects survived with massive neurological damage. In 2013, however, a girl survived rabies unscathed.

The increased irritability is an early warning symptom for many diseases and helps to treat the condition that is recognized in good time. Not so with rabies! The first phase is characterized by irritability; the disease has already broken out and can no longer be contained.

Prevention only helps against rabies. The virus is still raging in parts of Africa and Asia, and around 20,000 people become infected each year in India alone. In most cases, they become infected because they bite a sick animal - usually they are street dogs, rarely jackals, foxes or cats.

Travelers should therefore avoid areas where such semi-wild dogs reside, be careful outside of cities when wild animals such as jackals, foxes or hyenas approach without hesitation.

The risk of getting infected depends on the type of travel. Those who mainly travel by car and spend the night in hotels rarely come into contact with the animals that transmit the plague, but backpack tourists who share the open air with dogs, monkeys, rats or pigs Risks. Outdoor trekkers can ask locals; They usually know very well whether there are infected animals in the area, because Indians learn to protect themselves from rabid dogs as children. It is also advisable not to stroke animals that are wandering around, even if they cause pity and to carry a stick to keep infected animals at a distance.

In South and Central America, it helps to sleep under a mosquito net at night so that the bats do not reach uncovered areas of the body.

Above all, when traveling to countries where rabies is rampant, vaccination is a must: This applies to India as well as Nepal, Somalia and Tanzania.

If you miss this and are bitten by an animal, you should immediately go to the doctor and get vaccinated.

What helps against irritability?

Irritability can be treated differently depending on what the cause is. Natural remedies such as St. John's wort, passion flower, valerian, hops, lavender, chamomile or lemon balm help against slight irritability, as well as orange oil, fennel oil, bergamot oil, basil oil, rosewood oil, yarrow oil or sandalwood.

Autogenic training, yoga exercises and shamanic exercises are also helpful. Baths with relaxing oils are just as recommendable as sports: cycling, walking, running or weight training. It does not have to be competitive sport, but exercise in the fresh air lets the irritable come to rest. If there is a physical irritability, swimming is less sensible, because after swimming the skin and mucous membranes react sensitively.

Irritability as a result of lack of sleep is not pathological. Here sleep helps, go to bed early and sleep in. The irritability disappeared a day later.

All of these exercises also relieve irritability, which is an expression of more serious illnesses. Here, however, it is important to cure the cause, namely the disease, and not its symptom. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


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ICD-Codes für diese Krankheit:R45.4, F63.8ICD-Codes sind international gültige Verschlüsselungen für medizinische Diagnosen. You can find yourself e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

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