Bad moods can happen for many reasons, but sometimes, they have nothing to do with your life circumstances. If you're constantly, inexplicably on edge and wondering "why am I always irritated?", you might want to get your health checked, as there could be some surprising medical reasons associated with your change in mood. Certain physical issues can cause emotions to shift, and getting to the root of these problems might be able to help you manage the negative feelings that arise as a result of them.
"Generally speaking, even when we aren't so aware of it, a strong mind-body connection exists," psychologist Marni Amsellem, Ph.D tells Bustle. "What that means in terms of irritability, speaking broadly, is that when we are either emotionally stressed or physically overtaxed, our capacity to respond to emotional triggers is lower than what it would have been otherwise. This makes it more likely that we will respond to a trigger with irritability, either inwardly or expressed outwardly."
Of course, sometimes a bad mood is a result of events happening in your life, but if those aren't the culprits, it might be time to consider other causes. Here are nine surprising medical issues that can cause irritability, according to experts.
1. Lack Of Sunlight
Sunshine is important to keep up your spirits. "If you find you are more irritable during the winter months when sunlight is more scarce, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)," clinical psychologist Dr. Charlynn Ruan, Ph.D. tells Bustle. "It is more common in higher latitudes where the days become much shorter during winter." While speaking with a loved one or therapist can help with symptoms, SAD lamps may also be worth trying.
2. Thyroid Problems
Similarly, if you have underlying issues with your thyroid that you might not know about, it can manifest as mood swings also. "Hyperthyroidism [an overactive thyroid] can cause irritability, anxiety, and mood swings," says Dr. Ruan. "On the opposite end of the spectrum, hypothyroidism [an under-active thyroid] can cause depression, fatigue, and mental slowness. If you suspect issues with your thyroid, you can get it tested and treated."
3. Sleep Troubles
Sleep is critical for mental health in general, including for mood regulation. "Being sleep deprived for any reason — whether it’s due to insomnia, pain, or sleep apnea — can really increase crankiness, frustration and short-temperedness," Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C tells Bustle. "And if you cope with fatigue by having lots of sugar and caffeine, you’re even more likely to feel jumpy, anxious and on edge." If you find that getting to sleep or staying asleep is difficult, speak with your doctor about solutions so that lack of sleep no longer interrupts your life.
4. Hormonal Changes
Changes in your hormones can also make you irritable. "Pregnancy, postpartum, or premenstrual hormones can all cause a person to feel anxious, depressed, or irritable," says Dr. Ruan. "Pregnant women are often the most surprised by this because they imagine a glowing sense of peace throughout their pregnancy, but combine rapid hormone shifts with the physical discomfort, sleep difficulties and nausea that can accompany pregnancy, and they are feeling very on edge."
Those who suffer from diabetes may also find they feel chronically irritable, especially if their condition is not managed well. "Specifically, low glucose levels can cause irritability, mood swings, or depression," clinical psychologist Jennifer Sweeton, Psy.D., M.S., M.A. tells Bustle. "Thus, it is advisable for the person to check their sugar levels on a regular basis, especially if they experience a large increase in irritability."
6. Low Testosterone
Testosterone is a hormone that people need for maintaining high energy levels, controlling pain response, regulating sleep, and more. "Chronic stress, poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, and certain medications can all take a toll on testosterone levels, zapping you of vitality and motivation," says Dr. Axe. If you are feeling irritable, and are not sure why, talk to your doctor and find out if this hormone is to blame.
Too much exercise without enough time for recovery is a recipe for fatigue and moodiness. "This is especially true if you don’t fuel your body after workouts with quality nutrition, particularly if you under-eat protein," says Dr. Axe. "Overtraining can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which messes with your mood, appetite, sleep, hormones and more." So when exercising, make sure you do not push yourself too hard, and always leave time to recover thereafter.
8. Eating A Lot Of Sugar
Your lifestyle choices can also play a role in how you feel, especially when it comes to how much sugar you consume. "When we eat concentrated sources of sugar, receptors in our brains associated with reward and positive feelings light up," says Dr. Axe. "But, as our reward pathways keep getting stimulated due to a high-sugar [lifestyle], dopamine receptors become desensitized, and we then require even more dopamine to get the same pleasant feeling. This leads to cravings for even more sugar, in addition to spikes and dips in energy." Eating a lot of sugar can also promote oxidative stress and inflammation, leading to cell damage over time that may mess with your moods, he says.
9. Estrogen Dominance
It's no surprise that estrogen can play a role in our mood (hello, PMS). "Estrogen dominance, meaning having higher levels of estrogen in proportion to progesterone, can increase PMS symptoms including moodiness," says Dr. Axe. "PMS and hormonal imbalances can also interfere with sleep, increase fatigue and lead to cravings for 'comfort foods,' all of which may further worsen your mood. What’s the underlying cause of estrogen dominance? Contributing factors include: eating a low quality diet, chronic stress, [and] toxin exposure."
Just because you have a negative mood doesn't necessarily mean you have these health issues, but if you are frequently irritable, you might want to speak with your doctor to see if a health issue is to blame.