Why am I so irritable? The answer may lie in your hormones.

Why Am I So Irritable?

by Charlotte
by

Each of us has days when we feel out of sorts, when people get on our nerves, and we just can’t deal with things. We may feel a bit depressed or more anxious than usual, and our patience comes up short. This is perfectly normal. However, if these moments are  occurring more frequently or becoming more severe, you may be wondering, why am I so irritable?

Though many things may cause us to experience occasional irritability, ongoing mood changes may be hormone-related in both men and women. When irritability becomes a recurrent theme, it may be time to investigate hormones as a potential cause.

Why Am I So Irritable? The Influence of Hormones on the Brain

The endocrine system is closely involved in our moods and behavior. Hyperthyroidism, for example, may cause anxiety and restlessness while hypothyroidism may lead to depressive symptoms. Sex hormone imbalances can have an even more pronounced impact.

Women

Most women have experienced emotional distress and irritability caused by monthly hormone fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle. Similar mood related symptoms can often be more unpredictable and intense during periods of hormonal transition, such as puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause. 

Why does this happen?

Both estrogen and progesterone have a modulatory effect on the brain’s structure and functioning. As a result, emotional processing is deeply affected by changing hormone levels. One study, for example, found that “[p]remenopausal women with no lifetime history of major depression who entered the perimenopause were twice as likely to develop significant depressive symptoms as women who remained premenopausal, after adjustment for age at study enrollment and history of negative life events.” Additionally, women who have previously experienced depression are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a major depressive disorder during this transition. 

Researchers are still uncovering the exact nature of the relationship between hormones and mood in women, but shifting estrogen levels are generally believed to be a primary culprit. As such, hormone replacement therapy may have a “direct and positive impact” on mood. But there is a great deal of variability between women. Because hormones—both those made by the body and those prescribed to treat an imbalance—can profoundly and unpredictably affect emotional wellbeing, it may be helpful for you to work with a hormone health specialist who can provide treatment that aims to fit your individual needs. 

Men

Unlike the sharp drop in sex hormones women experience with menopause, most men have a steady 1% decline in testosterone that begins around age 30. This decline is so gradual that most men do not recognize it until testosterone levels are significantly decreased. Research suggests that more than a third of men over age 45 have lower than expected testosterone levels for their age.  

Declining testosterone levels can produce a variety of physical symptoms as well as irritability, poor concentration, and depression. This may be exacerbated by stress, which raises cortisol, or weight gain, which may cause excess estrogen.

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may help improve mood, wellbeing, and quality of life. A meta-analysis of studies involving exogenous testosterone revealed that TRT may be a powerful tool in treating mild depression or as an add-on when treating major depression in men under age 60. TRT may be especially appealing to men who are concerned about sexual side effects from SSRI antidepressants. As the authors note, “Because maintenance of satisfying sexual performance in patients with depression is important, TRT—with its dual effects on mood and sexual function—may be a better choice.”

Determining If Hormones Are Behind Your Irritable Mood

With the help of a hormone health specialist, you can try to determine whether a hormone imbalance is contributing to your irritability. Due to the complex nature of your endocrine system, comprehensive hormone testing is needed to help rule out a hormonal cause for your uncharacteristic moods. Today, this can be accomplished through a virtual telehealth visit and in-home diagnostic testing. If hormone replacement therapy looks like a viable option, it can be conveniently delivered to your doorstep.

After starting TRT, additional changes may be recommended by your practitioner to strive for lasting results. Because stress, diet, and general health can also impact mood, lifestyle factors must be considered. Finding a practitioner who will not only provide hormone replacement therapy but also offer meaningful lifestyle supports that may mean the difference between continuing to ‘not feel like yourself’ and a return to physical and mental health and wellbeing.

If you are wondering why am I so irritable?, BodyLogicMD wants to help. The expert practitioners in the BodyLogicMD network can assess your needs and try to design a personalized BalancePro plan to help you achieve your health goals. Set up your telehealth consultation, or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about how hormones may be affecting your everyday life.

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.

Author

  • Charlotte

    Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.