Irritability 

I have almost always been prone to irritability.  I could never quite understand where it came from.  It would just be there, instantly, as if on 24-hour standby.

Anything could set it off.  Looking back to early childhood, I remember setting something on a dresser in my room, only for it to fall back off.

Boom!  Irritability sprung, and often, anger lashed out.

As I grew older, fresher situations come to mind, such as the inattentive driver who almost hit our truck.  Another near-miss (or would that be “near-hit”?  The English language is quite peculiar sometimes).  We might have made it through the harrowing situation unharmed this time, but would we be so lucky next time?  Roll the bones.  And why in the hell couldn’t the driver paid more attention?

Boom!  Four-letter words escape my lips.

Anger doesn’t come from nowhere, of course.  There’s always a precipitator.  Sometimes it’s a progression along a continuum of irritability.  Other times the roots are less obvious; I didn’t realize that most of the time, my own irritability often stemmed from a seemingly unusual suspect: anxiety.

Irritability appears to be a Thing–a prevailing theme not only in my life, but in those of many people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.  And this seems to hold true no matter what their physical age.

Realizing that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum has provided me a new set of tools with which to explore the truths in my life, and since then, I’ve now been able to string together more of the connections that make up the webby flowchart of my own irritability.

Here are some of the key elements I’ve identified so far…

Anxiety / Stress:

Anxiety is probably the most significant subtype of my irritability.  When the brain registers a potential threat, it launches into “fight or flight” mode.  A split-second decision must be made, and it doesn’t take long to realize that I usually can’t flee (the “flight” part), so what’s left?

Fight.

Except that the “fight or flight” reflex originated millennia ago, when our threats were larger in size, usually living things, and it was acceptable to live true to the “fight or flight” response and all that it entailed.  And these days, it’s not considered so acceptable (nor usually even legal) to do so.  Our lives are being dictated according to social constructs that actually work contrary to our neurology.  Our supposed “socialization” and its accompanying expectations actually work against us.

Except (lots of “except”s here) that our neurology (our brains) don’t just say, “oh, you’re not fighting predators anymore and you live in a society now that adheres to different rules and I could get you in trouble if you follow your instinct?  That’s cool, I’ll back off and sleep over here until you need me.”

Yeah…no.  Neurophysiology doesn’t work that way.

That stress response has to go somewhere.  If you can’t flee and you can’t fight, what happens?  Where does that leave us?

In a mess, that’s where.  And this mess has nowhere to go, no outlet to take.  So it gets pent up.  Try as we might to set it aside, its apparent dormancy is deceptive.  It only looks like it goes away.

Eventually, we can begin to buzz and shorten.  Our resilience thins and our reasoning centers stiffen, becoming less flexible.

Poof!  Irritability–especially if this situation is prolonged.

What most people aren’t aware of is the actual basis for the fight-or-flight response: look back at the words “stress”, “stressor”, “threat”, and “predator”.  What do they all have in common?

Fear.  Not “just” anxiety (not that I’m implying that anxiety isn’t significant, because it is).  Fear, however, ups the ante a little; it’s the higher/stronger octave of anxiety.

Sensory Sensitivity / Incompatible Environment:

Another underlying source-theme of irritability is being overwhelmed in any way.   Certain sensory stimuli can be extremely grating, piercing, and overwhelming, and thus…irritating.  So can regular work stress.  Or relationship stress, such as when my partner used to fail to consider my stress levels when suggesting when we run errands, or springing something on me suddenly.  It felt very inconsiderate.

Scratchy or ill-fitting clothing will drive me up a tree, as will smells of summer trash dumpsters or perfume, or commercials/adverts on TV, or loud clanging and banging around in the kitchen, especially regarding dishes or cookware in the sink.  I also can’t stand careless or semi-violent movements such as slamming doors, even if it wasn’t done in anger.

Histamine / Allergies:

Then there’s an interesting sub-theme that crops up from time to time: histamine.  My own histamine-related lab markers are ten times the upper limit of what’s considered normal, and histamine has strong associations with anxiety and irritability, including “tantrums” (link to research abstracts).

This means that when I’m flooded with histamine, that might serve as (at least) a predisposition to irritability.  Because high levels of histamine also promote extended wakefulness (insomnia), which I also frequently experience, the lack of sleep itself can also manifest in the form of irritability.

Garden-Variety Frustration:

For me, irritability can also arise from frustration.  Some examples…

  • Having to do the same work over again a second time.
  • Having to wait unnecessarily.
  • Spending time correcting someone’s sloppy work or mistakes
  • Having to make drastic accommodations for someone’s shortcomings (the type that have no excuse, such as driving aggressively or distractedly).
  • Being interrupted during periods of deep concentration or work requiring my full attention and intense focus.
  • Technology mishaps, such as when my computer momentarily (or not) freezes or my WordPress mobile app crashes near the end of writing a comment that I was particularly proud of.  (Technological mishaps are a major-huge source for this type of irritability.)
  • An abrupt schedule change or change of plans
  • When someone doesn’t follow through with a commitment they’ve made

These examples may actually be anxiety/fear/stress hidden under a thicker cloak.  There might simply be a few more dots to connect before I can see the relationship.

I can’t quite tell for sure.

That theory may hold water, though.  I can see (or might be able to begin to make out the shadowy outlines of) how some of these examples may arise from anxiety.

The sudden changes in plans or scheduling are the ones to which it’s easiest to make the anxiety connection.  My routines and ability to plan/schedule activities in advance reduce the anxiety that continuously builds up due to the very nature of living in a world incompatible with my own constitution.  It’s like having to constantly pour water on a small fire; usually the fire can be kept at bay…

…at least, until you run out of water with which to control it.  Dismantling my routine or throwing my schedule or previously-laid plans into a state of upheaval is like turning off the fire hose.  The fire of the environmentally-based anxiety quickly gets out of control.  It’s like pulling the rug out from under me.

The other examples I listed under the “frustration” category, such as the interruption while in the middle of deep focus or enduring someone’s incompetence or having to perform a task twice, etc, however, are less clear to me at the moment.

Maybe they, too, are sprouted from the seeds of anxiety.  My brain races so fast and moves so much faster than I can, that perhaps I become impatient because I’m feeling the pressure and stress (again, fear/anxiety-based) of having to keep up.

At this point, some people might (understandably) be wondering, “wouldn’t your life be easier if you just chilled out and relaxed a little?  Why the hurry?”

The answers to the above questions are, respectively, 1) yes, I’m sure it would, and 2) I don’t know, other than the fact that my brain insists upon speed and efficiency, and even after nearly 40 years of walking this weird planet, that isn’t something I’ve been able to change and therefore, I’ve long begun to realize that this might very well be part of my core nature–the part of my being that is inherent and might not be able to be altered.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by my own brain.  I feel like my brain has a legitimate case of hyperactivity, but markedly lacking in the attention deficit area; I can focus just fine–probably too fine.

The “Little Things”:

And then there’s another source of irritability, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t have much of an anxiety component, but is pure frustration: The Little Things.

These Little Things are the type of human error or everyday happenstance experienced by anyone and everyone across the globe.  Nobody’s perfectly physically coordinated, nor do humans have panoramic vision that enables us to look in all directions at once.  To err is human and thus, mistakes and misjudgments happen.

I don’t think it’s just over-reactivity or over-sensitivity on my part, because my partner is starting to see this, too, but it appears that those Little Things happen to me amazingly (and excessively, higher-than-averagely) often.  As in, several times an hour, or with practically every physical movement I make.  Some of these include:

  • My own physical clumsiness – I drop things, knock into things, knock things over, snag things on corners or edges, spill/drip foods/beverages, type words/letters wrong (whether on a desktop, computer, laptop, or mobile–I do all of the above).
  • Executive function issues – I get (laptop, mobile phone charger, office desk phone) cords tangled up, etc.  I roll over them with my office chair and of course, they get snagged in the chair-wheel assembly.  Piles of paper constantly fall off my tables, especially when my cords sweep over them because I wasn’t looking.  I forget things – constantly; often, multiple things.
  • A pervasive and lifelong streak of bad luck – This is very Murphy’s Law-esque; if tangling my cords up wasn’t irritating enough, they drag across a neatly-stacked pile of papers and of course, it doesn’t stay put–it falls on the floor.  And of course, it doesn’t maintain any semblance of order once it hits the floor–it’s all disorganized.

One Little Thing on its own, every so often, isn’t enough to irritate me.  If that were the case, would be rather unreasonable.  But since it seems to happen constantly (seriously, I could fill a college-lined notebook sheet or two with a single day’s worth of these Little Things), which slows me down, disorganizes (or scratches or breaks) my stuff, and generally causes stress (maybe it’s anxiety-based after all?)

Maybe everything comes back to stress/anxiety/fear in some way, or maybe it doesn’t.  I’m still processing and learning, and I haven’t figured everything out yet.  I don’t have all the answers or explanations down pat yet.  I haven’t even traced the brain-neurology pathways responsible for all this stuff.

But I know I will eventually.

And I’ll let you know when I do, because I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in at least some of this. 😉


Related Posts:

So Maybe I Don’t Have My Shizz Together: an Aspie / Autistic Mini-Meltdown ~ November 24, 2016

Triggers of Frustration: The Technology Edition ~ July 27, 2016

Nearing a Meltdown ~ March 22, 2017

Make It Stop ~ March 1, 2017

Sometimes Driving Makes Me Cry ~ December 3, 2016

 

 

 

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36 Comments

  1. Oh yes; ugh. I can be easily provoked and irritable myself. Of course, like you, it requires a stimulus but I can snap at the silliest of things. Of course, I’m more prone to it at certain times than others but yes, this sounds a lot like me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. me too. laina: using a gnu/linux distro is kind of helpful (overall) with this.

      on the one hand, it comes with its own ****ing $%@! annoyances. on the other, it comes with fewer of them. every time you get something working… its “more reliable than windows.(tm)” except for systemd. i mean, dont get me started. that was an annoyance i spent more than a year fixing (on the plus side, met the author of refracta and now ive got my own distro…)

      windows is a serious pain in the ascii. “DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER. DOING WHATEVER I PLEASE, INSTALLING WHATEVER I WANT. IM SORRY DAVE, I CANT LET YOU DO THAT.”

      i cant use tablets for this reason. tablets are f***ing stupid. (ive actually got an old one laying around, but dont let it get on a network.) if they have usb connections for real keyboard/mouse, perhaps. even then…

      of course apple is better than windows sometimes (usually). and gnu/linux on a pc is better than apple, depending. so dont get more apple stuff, just clean off windows and… no, get another pc (like an old core2, something cheap with at least 2 cores and at least 2g of ram) and put gnu/linux on it. then you can swear at least a little less, except at yourself for not doing it sooner ❤ ("whats my line? im happy cleaning windows!" – van morrison)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Omg cool! Thank you for your advice! Ok this reinforces what my untrained-but-somewhat-intuitive brain was suspecting! Especially the part about Windows < Apple < UNIX/Linux. Makes sense to me 😊👍🏼

        "Pain in the ASCII" – You Win The Internet!!! (I laughed so hard! Must steal?) 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼😉💯✅😘🐉🌺💝🤓😎👊🏼🌸🌻⚡️❣💘

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely understand every bit of this. I have so many mishaps pile up in the course of a day I can feel snowed under. Throw in schedule changes (dealing with two just this morning. Acck!) and the typical anxieties I experience just trying to get through the day and I can get extremely irritable! Appreciate your openness here. So helpful! :)❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, luv! I really appreciate that 😘. Oh no! I totally feel for you 💐. Schedule changes can be so incredibly disruptive/destabilizing (at least that’s how I describe it). Please take care of You! So glad you enjoyed; very happy to help 😊💞🌷💞

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Shucks it looks like WP ate the reply I thought I posted (successfully) yesterday. I’ll try again 😉

      Yes, me too! Holy moly. (Not all females, of course, for me) but the more game-playing, coy, gold-digging, superficial, ditzy, judgmental, obnoxious, immature, etc etc. I imagine that (these types of) females are a different kind of stress for you and me, but I’m guessing that we’d certainly find some of the same characteristics stressful 😉💘🌟

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oy! I’ve been castigating myself and talking to my counselor about this very thing. The worse the state of my personal life, or the state of the country and world, the worse it gets. The part about my brain working at top speed and yet being forgetful- yes. Also- No ADHD here. I focus like a laser- WHEN I can focus. Too much anxiety and I cannot focus at all. I’m exhausted, truly exhausted. I’m 66 and I thought my life would be getting easier by now, but to the contrary.
    Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I can absolutely relate 😁. I know exactly what you mean, at least in my own way. Awesome 😎. Irritability can certainly get the best of me as well. I have come up with a handful of strategies on how to handle it; I might just write a follow-up post on that! ❤️. So very glad you enjoyed this 🌷💝

      Like

  4. Again I wonder if you are me! My fallback reaction when stressed, worried, anxious, scared etc. is to get angry, irritable. I couldn’t even begin to list what sets me off, the list would be too long (how long is a piece of string?!), although you interest me with the histamine aspect (I have the allergy holy trinity – asthma, hayfever and very occasionally eczema) – there are studies that say these are found more frequently percentage wise within spectrum people than NTs). I always figured its because I spent a large part of my childhood in a very angry household, so its an emotion I feel at home with as such, as perverse as that is. Its not a good trait and even though I’m calmer now than I’ve ever been, it doesnt take much of a spark to set off a reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe I wonder if we’re some kind of–I don’t know, cosmic twins or something? 🤗💞. Another common thread – I’m also eczema-prone 😖. I found out that I had a few very specific triggers for it and luckily they’re not too tough to avoid. Yep, I totally agree – I’ve seen some of that research (linking histamine-related issues with the autism spectrum) too, and I must say, it’s fascinating! 😊

      If I had access to a research facility and this hasn’t already been looked into, I’d love to examine a potential theory: histamine has been said to have stimulant activity; could that actually be at the root of some of our low-level-but-constant anxiety? 🤔😊💞

      Like

      1. Wow! I deal with eczema and allergies, too! And, sadly, we live in one of the worst places in the country for allergies. If we didn’t have so many other things invested here, we’d move. As it is, I have learned a few things that help me through.That would be so interesting to research. It seems like there are a lot of connections.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “Hehe I wonder if we’re some kind of–I don’t know, cosmic twins or something?”
        Makes me wonder! I cant say there are many people out there who I think “wow I could have said that”.

        I’m on some fairly heavy duty antihistamines to control the hayfever, so it doesnt set off the asthma, but the anxiety doesnt really change during the couple of months I dont take them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, sweets! So much appreciated! To know I’m not alone. Still finding out the extent of the not-aloneness 😘. Thank you for the gift of a precious nugget today! Mwah back atcha 😘🌷💝

      Like

  5. I can appreciate all that you say here. My own DD has those same experiences. In the past year she has concentrated on learning to step away and take time out when she starts to find herself feeling irritable. It might be that she is frustrated, emotionally overwhelmed, has sensory overwhelm, is struggling to project what might happen in a new situation, frustrated and overwhelmed by a sudden change etc… or a combination of them all (!)… but in giving herself that time out, without feeling the pressure of external demands, she is able to process what is happening for her, and move through it. Avoiding absolute gut wrenching melt down.

    At first she needed longer periods of time-out to get through things, this has become less so over time. In repeating that plan over the course of the year, she has come to recognise when she needs to step away more naturally, and even if she is tied into other commitments, she will take the first opportunity she gets to go to be on her own. She has equally learned to give those around her fair warning i.e. ‘I’m people’d out, I’m stepping away.”

    Sometimes when taking time out she will focus on things she loves, such as art, at others she might do absolutely nothing (but is probably actively fighting the urge to melt?)… She has given us fair warning, we leave her be as much as life allows us to. In doing so, she is usually able to put into words at a later date what was contributing, so that we can think about solutions.

    Repetition has meant that she has learned to schedule in adequate time-out into her day to day life to breathe, therefore decreasing how often she hits near breaking point? The change is noticeable for us, she is a happier, more confident and more able to negotiate her way through daily challenges. We are equally more able to appreciate that it’s an effort to negotiate those challenges.

    I don’t mean to patronise you with this response, I was just sharing something I’ve really noticed over the past year, incase it’s at all helpful. Thanks for writing such an informative piece, its nice to see so many replies from those around you who can truly relate 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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