Moodscope's blog



Irritable – defined as 'Feeling Easily Annoyed'. Monday November 11, 2013

Here's the ninth in the series of excellent blogs by Lex covering the adjectives on the 20 Moodscope cards. Please don't forget we'd love you to add any ideas, tips, insights or advice you may have that you'd like to share with other Moodscope members that might be of help. Please add them to the comments at the end of this post. Many thanks. Caroline.

'Irritable' is a wonderful word – it even has a ratty rhythm to it – a kind of tetchy staccato beat! Irritability is an over-reaction to stimuli. Rat-ta-tat-tat! I'm going to speak auto-biographically here. I've noticed over the years that I tend to be irritable with those people I like most! It's almost as if I give myself permission to be ratty with those close to me, but I extend a greater tolerance to strangers. Does that sound around the wrong way to you?

So, for today, the key for me is focusing on the concept of an 'over-reaction'. Whether we're talking about psychological irritability, or physical irritability like IBS, there is some (over) reaction to a stimulus. Thus I take a two-pronged approach: 1) reduce the stimuli, and 2) challenge the type of reaction.

1. Reduce the stimuli. I am a massive fan of FABs. "FAB" stands for a 'Fluid Adjustment Break'. When I am over-stimulated and in danger of over-reacting, I excuse myself and pop off either to the loo or to make myself a drink. Both Fluid Adjustments seem to give me psychological fluidity too, and I can often recover and calm down. Distance gives perspective.

2. Challenge the type of reaction. 'Irritation is the beginning of a pearl!' A pearl is the Oyster's response to an irritant in its mantle. By consciously seeking for some value in an experience, I can sometimes turn an irritating situation into a valuable lesson – a pearl of wisdom. It's sort of, 'Always look on the bright side of life!' This doesn't mean that I am naturally optimistic – far from it. It does mean though that I invest energy into the thinking process used to find something useful in the scenario – and that, in and of itself, is a useful distraction!

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

Permalink  |  Blog Home


Mary Blackhurst Hill Hill Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 10:08am

Love the FAB idea. And will try to embrace the irritation being the beginning of a pearl, even when I am longing to swat that irritator so hard that they become a diamond!
Thanks Lex for a great blog - as always.

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 10:38am

Bless you Mary, you made me laugh with that vision!!!

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 11:33am

My irritation spikes when I am on my way down, ( I usually realise that I am irritated with everyone and they can't all be out to get me at once!) and I use it as a sign and then try to make sure that I watch and adjust behaviours to either not go down or to minimise the down - I like your solutions to irritation (-_-)

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 1:44pm

There's one reason that I find the FAB idea unhealthy and a disappointing suggestion, and that is that turning to drink or even eating something, is counter productive to dealing with irritation for anyone who turns to substances for immediate relief. Anything that is addictive, from losing oneself in the Internet to "a drink," is not healthy physically or mentally. When I am irritated, I sometimes turn to food and soon depression sets in. A trip to the loo? Sounds like the only part of FAB that could help in the long term.
"Change the reaction" is the best way to deal with irritability followed by inquiring as to what is the fear behind the reaction. When I am irritated from a recent experience, I find I can be impatient with friends and even pets. Changing the reaction is key to prevent oneself from using innocent loved ones as a release valve. But first, take a big drink of water to rehydrate followed by that trip to the loo.

Julia Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 2:09pm

Hi Anonymous. Would you classify drinking a cup of tea or eating a salad as substance abuse? I don't think you would really when you think carefully about it. A lot of what you say is of course very wise and mirrors what Lex says in his blog today. I don't think Lex is advising substance abuse as a way of dealing with irritation! Definitely not! I am sorry I'm being a bit facetious here and you must have your reasons for having downers on food and drink, even the most innocent of these poor life sustainers.
We all, myself included perhaps even more than you! need to lighten up from time to time and maybe you should too today. Hey I dare you to go to the loo and not drink water afterwards!

Julia Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 2:23pm

Hi Lex
Good post again! Can you or anyone, Dawn perhaps (who wrote the blog a few days ago entitled Each Day We have Choices) think of an alternative positive word to go alongside Irritable? I can't right now. I can only think of incandescent which is even worse than irritable and not right at all! Anyway I do find myself often irritable (and incandescent) as you say mainly with those close to me (in particular one person.) and I find I am usually extremely tired when I find my patience at breaking point. I have decided that my irritability is so closely tied up with being dog tired and it's as if I cannot be bothered or don't have the energy to speak to or answer the person who is irritating me nor am I able to work out what the person is talking about, if at first it doesn't make sense to my tired mind. That same person (whom I love dearly most of the time, on balance etc etc) is walking around upstairs right now while I am trying to form sensible words and do you know I am feeling irritated by the sound of his footsteps on the floorboards. There he goes again. I think it's time to go to the loo. Or better still make nice cup of tea.

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 3:01pm

Dear Julia, you've represented me way better than I could have represented myself! You are 100% correct - I am in NO WAY suggesting substance abuse. In fact, I get more irritable if I drink alcohol.
So I'm talking about a FAB as a break in the pattern - like scratching a record. If I'm getting into a negative pattern, changing my posture and my location by having a drink of water or Tea breaks the cycle.
I also find popping off to the loo massively helpful in allowing my friendly subconscious mind to get a thought in edgewise.
The FAB offers a safety circuit breaker that stops me reacting rather than responding.
It's always interesting to see how people read what one writes - and useful to be able to correct such a fundamental misunderstanding.

The Entertrainer Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 3:03pm

I'm always impressed when special people get to read our patterns too. Some of my nearest and dearest know when it's best not to interrupt my reverie! Bless 'em.

Julia Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 3:21pm

Thank you for your kind words Lex but I think I wasn't very nice to Anon. I agree with knee jerk posts on this site probably because I am the worst at it: I can't help myself replying in a slightly unfortunate tone when I read something I don't like or think is wrong. I am sorry Anonymous. I do hope you don't have serious issues with food etc and you are right, we should keep ourselves hydrated. Lex's response is much more measured and mature. He is so is always interesting to see how people interpret what is written on the daily blogs and each one is as valid as the next because it represents how each is thinking at the time and where they are coming from.. Do reply if you have time!

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 3:24pm

Thanks for this, Lex! When I came across the concept of "success-triggered mania" and saw how closely it tracked my behavior and experience, I felt both recognition and a loss of "specialness." But having a set of clear descriptions helped me get to "work."
One of the things that seems so counter-intuitive is my former irritability (speak in past tense to eventually make it something I used to do) when feeling manic. Ha?
Like something both was rising while my sentry to guard my emotional gyroscope nodded off a bit till shaken awake with the irritation. Then my mood dropped so rapidly as I grumbled with the "issue" or "problem." [Oh, I'm writing to England, I guess I'll end the last sentence with: ... or "problem".]
What I found that has helped me to most are three concepts: changing my metaphors, changing the name of my situation, and daily monitoring. In reverse order then:
Moodscope was one of the first sites I checked out on daily monitoring. I don't use the cards so often now, but I love these articles. I moved onto other daily tracking services where I could name my own goals. I filled it with challenges, tests, and Ahas that my reading had uncovered.
Changing the name of my situation. The management of what we call something is available all the time and within our sovereignty if we but tap it. I looked at the words "bipolar disorder" and felt disgust when I reworked it as "two extremes in disorder." After meditating with the help of web searches, I arrived at 'Mobius Mode' as my goal and preferred state of mental health. A mobius strip is a ribbon with a half-twist. When the ends are taped a continuous ribbon with one edge and one side is created. I got a bonus idea from this exercise of looking for the half-twist in myself and situations.
I had one overpowering metaphor and I found I had to finally let it "die." That was of Icarus flying too close to the sun after being advised by his father, Daedalus, that his wings of wax and feathers would melt. That process of overreaching and crashing has ruined my living many times. But, oh, how I loved the thrill of being that high!
In my dreamland imagination I held a funeral ceremony for Icarus on the beaches of Icarus Island in Greece. It was very touching, and I cried. I picked myself up and carried on. I'm not looking back. May he rest in peace.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 3:59pm

Hi Julie - re; positive words for "irritable"
how about "accepting"?

You are so right - again! - re; irritability and tiredness/fatigue being closely linked. I am reluctantly coming to terms with the fact that taking prescribed medecine to help me sleep every night (as opposed to only when I felt a real need for it) is helping enormously with my fatigue and my outlook on life. I am now having "quality" sleep and feel more alert during the day. I still have to actively manage my energy levels but I am beginning to be more accepting of the need to do so.
It is so easy to neglect our own health and well-being - much harder to put ourselves first SO THAT we can look after others ... but I am repeating myself now ...
Frankie (author of "Each day we have choices")

Julia Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 4:10pm

Sorry Frankie for attributing your wise words to someone else. I should have checked first,
"Accepting!" Yes! Thank you. You are a gem.
I have terrible trouble sleeping. You may know this from some of my previous posts. I am totally in favour of taking medication to help insomnia but so far haven't found one. Any advice gratefully appreciated. Thank you again FRANKIE!

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 4:15pm

Thanks Julie

2 thoughts spring to mind;
Bach flower remedies: Rescue remedy - throughout the day and last thing at night
but I suspect you may well have tried all sorts already ...!
Good luck!

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 5:09pm

Sorry, Julia
Think I need to get my eyes tested!

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 7:18pm

If I'm irritable I remember it's about me . Stay with the irritable feeling and ask what is it I need I'm not giving myself. Examples could be self care, sleep, hunger, fun. Maybe I've taken on more than I can handle & in stress lashing out because if I'm irritable it flows over. I like the reminder of rescue remedy.

Anonymous Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 9:01pm

This is so good - thank-you - Frankie

Julia Mon, Nov 11th 2013 @ 10:31pm

Don't worry Frankie and thank you for your reply. Do you mind telling me which prescribed medicine you take every night please? If you don't want to tell me, that's of course fine. I think your idea of taking it every night not as I have done in the past, only intermittently when I feel desperate, would help me more.

Fionna O Tue, Nov 12th 2013 @ 7:56am

I was a bit puzzled when I read Anon's response to Lex's post. Then I wondered whether there were cultural language differences. In England when someone says "make" a drink it would normally be tea, coffee or something we "make" a cup of tea...whereas if it alcohol we are more likely to say "get a drink" or "pour a glass of wine/whisky". We would "make or, more likely, mix" a cocktail as that requires more than just pouring or turning a tap on. We would never "make a glass of water". can trip us all up.

Then I started to smile as I realised a) Anon sounded irritable and that seemed such a great example of why it is better to pause before reacting; b) I wondered how he or she felt when he or she read the responses and understood that other people attached a different meaning to the words that Lex said?

Does the irritation then just vanish?

Does it make Anon laugh at him/herself? Or is the feeling replaced by some other unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling...does irritability turn inwards as the response was based on a misunderstanding?

Would stopping and getting a glass of water (we would say 'get' as all we have to do is walk to the tap and let it flow into a glass) or going to the loo be enough?

Sometimes we feel better...and the self turned irritation/ discomfort doesn't really go until I have acknowledges my mistake "Oooops! Sorry! I misunderstood and over reacted'.

I think this often depends on how we've been conditioned to feel in the face of a misunderstanding...and, as we get older, how we condition ourselves. If we are used to gentle humour and kind forgiveness we are more likely to be skilful in self management than if we have been exposed to punishment/criticism/ jeering. If the latter we are more likely to have subsumed that response into ourselves...and can make things worse.

The Entertrainer Tue, Nov 12th 2013 @ 6:27pm

What a chest full of treasures, Revu2!! I'm so glad you mentioned 'metaphors' - that's reminded me to listen out for the metaphors people use in their speech. "The cards are stacked against me..." or "I was dealt a bad hand..." both spring to mind. (Not for me!) It's great to then find a better metaphor, or wreck the old one - becoming a Card Cheat (in the Metaphor) so that you change the odds in your favour. Rambling, I know, but I loved your insights...

Anonymous Tue, Nov 12th 2013 @ 7:51pm

Hello Julia
Amytriptyline - I am prescribed 10 mg but take 5 mg - it has certainly helped me this past month more than I care to admit; the quality of my sleep is now very good; no more waking at 3 am ... When I wake up I feel refreshed (unlike before).
Often the "thought for today" on Moodscope mentions the need for getting enough sleep - that's quantity - but we underestimate the need for quality sleep. My husband has long had a phrase "strange thoughts in a tired mind" to remind both of us of how easy it is to lose your grip on reality and start spiralling downwards.
In the past I have taken it for 3 or 4 nights in a row to break a bad sleep pattern and then gone without.
My consultant has advised me to take it regardless of how I am feeling to ease my "fatiguability" - my chronic fatigue condition.
It has definitely helped my outlook to be more positive - so I am better able to cope with the medical condition.
Unfortunately my energy levels have not improved as well
(swings and roundabouts maybe) - so physically there has been a marginal improvement but not significant - but a definite improvement in mood overall; my husband has been on the same dose for years and it has certainly helped him; no more waking at 4 am and going downstairs to sleep fitfully on the sofa til it's time to get up ...
I am not a doctor and would advise you to speak to your doctor should you wish to try something new. However if you are already prescribed something, why not do what your doctor has prescribed? In my experience they generally know what they are talking about (even though we may not wish to admit it to ourselves!)
It's a bit like having a headache and not wanting to take paracetamol or whatever ... sometimes we like to punish ourselves ...or pretend we are "superwoman" - what are we trying to prove and to whom?
I wish you peaceful nights! Frankie

Julia Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 5:39pm

You are so kind. I have only just come across your reply. I have heard from others that Amytrypytine can be taken every now and again for sleep but didn't really trust them. I always thought it was an anti depressant (of the older kind) and had to be taken continuously. I shall speak to my GP now I have heard this from you. I have tried most sleep remedies to get as you say, "quality" sleep but nothing so far has helped. It is very encouraging to hear of you and your husband's experiences. I will make an appointment with my GP and let you know how I get on Frankie. Good luck with everything.

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 6:47pm

Thanks Julia and good luck - I shall watch this space with interest

Anonymous Tue, Nov 26th 2013 @ 11:55am

Thanks for the recognition, The Entertainer. Metaphors are quite revealing aren't they? With all my changes, I find myself inside a fresh adventure of discovering myself. My body now even feels different when I dance, so that adds another confirmation.

You must login to leave a comment.

What is Moodscope?

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. If you’d like to receive these daily posts by email, just sign up to Moodscope now, completely free of charge.

Moodscope is an innovative way for people to treat their own low mood problems using an engaging online tool. Anyone in the world can accurately assess and track daily mood scores over a period of time. We have proved that the very act of measuring, tracking and sharing mood can actually lift it. Join now.

Blog Archive


Posts and comments on the Moodscope blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Moodscope makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any of the links.

Moodscope will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

We exist to help people to positively manage their moods. You can contribute by taking the test, sharing your experience on the blog or contributing funds so we can keep it free for all who need it.

Moodscope® is © Moodscope Ltd 2018. Developed from scales which are © 1988 American Psychological Association. Cannot be reproduced without express written permission of APA.