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Irritability is an emotional behavior that is result of having feelings of frustration and/or annoyance. Irritability can be a normal emotional response to conditions, such as stress, puberty or anxiety. However, irritability, especially ongoing irritability, may also be a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions.
Irritability can occur in any age group or population and can result from such general processes and conditions as infection, intellectual decline, trauma, mental health disorders, addiction, malignancy, and brain tissue necrosis.
Irritability can also can be chronic and ongoing over a longer period of time, such as when it is due to serious diseases and conditions, including hyperthyroidism, mental health disorders, Alzheimer's disease or a brain tumor.
Mental health disorders that can result in irritability include psychosis, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Irritability can also be due to alcoholism, drug addiction, and the use of alcohol and certain prescription and street drugs. These include amphetamines, diet drugs, LSD, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, crack and cocaine. Drug withdrawal or alcohol withdrawal and smoking cessation can also result in irritability.
Irritability can be the result of a wide variety of other conditions, diseases or disorders that directly or indirectly affect the functioning of the brain and nervous system. These include intellectual decline, hypoxia and chronic pain. For more details about causes, see causes of irritability.
Ongoing irritability can result in problems in many areas, such as at work and school, in relationships, and in the ability to function independently. In addition, the underlying cause of irritability can cause additional complications.
There are many symptoms that can occur with irritability. Symptoms vary depending on the disease, disorder or condition that is at the root of the irritability. Coexisting symptoms can include anger, agitation, violent behavior, hallucinations, anxiety, restlessness, withdrawal, depression, irrational thoughts, paranoia, increasing forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation.
Diagnosing irritability and its root cause begins with taking a thorough personal and family medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination, including a neurological examination. Drug screening and alcohol tests on blood and urine may be performed if irritability are suspected to be due to alcoholism, or alcohol use or drug abuse.
A mini-mental state examination (MMSE) can be used to assess mental and cognitive function if certain neurological conditions, such as intellectual decline or Alzheimer's disease, are suspected causes of irritability. In the MMSE, a health professional asks a patient a series of questions designed to test a range of everyday cognitive skills.
In addition to a primary care provider, making a diagnosis of the root cause of irritability may involve evaluations by multiple specialists, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist and/or psychologist. Making a diagnosis also includes performing a variety of other tests to help to diagnose the underlying disease, condition or disorder causing the irritability. Depending on the suspected cause, tests can include blood tests, lumbar puncture, urine tests, and imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT scan, nuclear scans and MRI.
A diagnosis of irritability and its cause can easily be delayed or missed because irritability may be mild or transient and not last long. For information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of irritability.
Treatment of irritability involves diagnosing and treating the underlying disease, disorder or condition that is causing the irritability. Some conditions can be easily and successfully treated and cured, while others may require more intensive treatment and may not have an optimal prognosis. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of irritability. ...more »
Treatment plans for irritability are individualized depending on the cause, the presence of coexisting diseases, the age and medical history of the patient, and other factors. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the underlying or associated cause and helps to moderate frustration, anxiety and stress so a person experience less irritability can function effectively ...more treatments »
Diagnosing irritability and its cause may be delayed or missed because the irritability may be subtle or progress slowly.
In addition, some people may assume that irritability is a normal part of aging. However, irritability can be associated with serious conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Sudden irritability may be due to a serious, ...more misdiagnosis »
Read more about causes of Irritability.
More information about causes of Irritability:
Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases, because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms. Although the most common symptoms are anal itch (or ...read more »
RLS sleep disorder causing night-time leg sensations often misdiagnosed: A common but relatively unknown sleep-related disorder called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is often misdiagnosed. The typical symptoms are night...read more »
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