Do You Get Irritated A Lot? You Are Not a Monster.

Irritation, Annoyance, Counseling, Emotional Health, Emotional Intelligence

I know.  It feels like you are.  You feel guilty about it.

But, really, the fact that you feel guilty about getting annoyed a lot reveals that is not your true nature.  You see, guilt is an indication that you have travelled outside the range of your values, ethics and true essence.  So, if you felt it was right, you wouldn’t feel guilty.   Make sense?

I’ll tell you more about guilt in the next couple weeks.  Stay tuned.  Better yet, subscribe and make sure you don’t miss it.

But, for now: annoyance and irritation.

This post is #5 in a series of 10: Ten Basic Emotions and their Messages.

The central point is:  The human emotional system is built as a messaging system.

Each emotion has a general message it wants to convey.  Once that message is delivered, the emotion or the wave of that emotion can be processed.

Sometimes there are multiple waves of the emotion. Sometimes it takes a little time for the emotion to process through the body, sometimes it is relieved right away.

It’s important to remember that there are nuances to the system. Each emotion also has a spectrum of how helpful it can be.

Let’s start with the basic message your irritation wants to bring to your awareness.

Your irritation is telling you that you need space.

It seems too simple, right?  But think about it.  When you are annoyed, if you are like me, you are super unpleasant.  Your tone, your face, your body language are not nice and other people don’t like it.  YOU don’t like it.  It is pushing you to get away from whatever is causing the irritation and other people don’t want to be around you.  As a result, it works on the most basic of levels.

In addition, irritation can be really unexpected.  Like, obviously people talking super loud on their cell phone in a public space is annoying.  But, it doesn’t seem rational to be irritated by someone giving you loving attention.  But, I promise, whatever it is.  It’s real to you.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be annoyed.

Causes for your Irritation

ONE:  It is something most people would find annoying.

Line up 100 people, expose them to the irritant and the majority would be annoyed.

TWO: You are stressed or overwhlemed.

Yup, things you would normally find pleasant or delightful might become annoying when you are stressed: music, being touched, being needed, talking with a loved one, children playing and laughing.  Most likely, whatever is overwhleming you just needs your attention and the stress cycle needs to resolve in your body.

Before you judge yourself for being a horrible person because you are annoyed about the puppy video your best friend sent you or that your grandmother called to say hello, just realize this is a short term situation.  When you look back at it tomorrow or when your stress comes down, you will see with clear eyes.

THREE:  One of your buttons got pushed.

Unknowingly, something you are sensitive about got activated.  Want to know more about this?  Check out this post.

FOUR:  You are feeling someone else’s stress.

Stress can fill up a room.  If you are an empath or just an intuitive person, you will just take that on as if it is your own (with zero awareness that it is not yours) and, consequently, act it out.  If you find yourself thinking “what is my problem???“, that might be a clue that it isn’t yours.

FIVE:  You are an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person).

This is a thing.  Proven by actual research.  15-20% of the population is Highly Sensitive.  It means that your nervous system is wired differently.  You are prone to feeling overstimulated, you process things deeply, you notice subtleties and you are empathic.  When you get overstimulated, you likely need time to be alone to reduce the stimulation and process what has happened (even if you don’t feel like you are consciously “processing” anything).

So, if you don’t know you are an HSP, you probably need a lot more space than you think you should need so you spend a lot of time being irritated. You are not a monster.  You are just highly sensitive.  As a result, if you can meet your needs for space directly and balance your life according to that need for space, you will find yourself being more pleasant.

It might take some time to get your head around exactly how much space you need as opposed to others who are not HSPs.  It does help to learn more about being an HSP so you can be more compassionate toward yourself about it.

Fixes for your Irritation

ONE: Accept it.

Just because you accept that you need a million miles of space today doesn’t mean you will always need that.  Your body just has to TRUST that you will listen.  Furthermore, you need to practice metabolizing the stress of irritation through your body.

It doesn’t take as long as you think.  If you catch it earlier in the process (that means when you are only a little annoyed vs super annoyed), you will be able to process it faster.  Plus, the more you practice, the more efficient you will be.

Finally, the more you “hate” your irritation, the more you unpleasantness you have to manage within yourself.  If you can just try to accept it, you will do less work in the long run and you will get further faster.  Metafeelings (how you feel about how you feel) are half the battle.

TWO: Figure out a way to communicate your needs so that your loved ones are prepared.

Let them know you are working on being less irritable.  They might like this idea.  Let them know you might do things (put in headphones or go in the other room) or ask for things (like space or extra time to process) that might not make sense to them.

Let them know your irritation is NOT ABOUT THEM.  Because it isn’t.  Mostly, it has to do with you being able to meet your own needs at the time your irritation arises.  It might take repeated assurances to realize it truly isn’t about them.  Be liberal with your reassurance.  That will probably help them allow you the space you need without getting upset or taking it personal.

THREE:  Give yourself the space you need.

I know this seems obvious.  But sometimes we get addicted to dynamics, even though they are unpleasant.  So we think about taking the space, but don’t actually do it.  Familiarity is seductive.  Fight that temptation to think “it’s not that big of a deal” and just take the space.

You might need less time than you think you need, but take it.  DO NOT try to muscle through it.  Your irritation will come out sideways and then you will confirm to yourself that you are, in fact, an asshole.  Which you are not.  But it will make you feel that way.

FOUR: Figure out the cause of your irritation and problem solve around it for the long run.

Take your irritation as an opportunity to figure out what buttons are being pushed or if you are a Highly Sensitive Person or if there is something that is just a pet peeve.  And then solve around that.

If it is a bigger issue like a trigger from the past, don’t be shy to work with a therapist.  When people come to me without a crisis and a genuine willingness to work through an issue, therapy is highly effective.

If it is something like being highly stressed, sit down and figure out some ways you can support yourself through this time of overwhelm.  There are different kinds of stress and each one needs a slightly different approach.  Learn about that here.

You can learn through this.  Take it seriously and you will get through it.  On the other side, you have closer and more satisfying relationships.  And you will have more PEACE.  Yessssss.

FIVE:  Find out how you can metabolize the stress of your irritation through your body.

Be willing to let the irritation cycle through your body.  You do not need to hang on to it if you have done a good job of listening to it and taking care of yourself.

The one that works best for me is to separate myself from the situation, make sure I’m willing to let go of my irritability (I’m not always!) and then take three cleansing breaths.  Once I do that, I take my mind somewhere else, like reading something interesting, looking at social media, watching animal videos.  This is if my irritation is pretty intense.

If it is showing up only a tiny bit, I just name it (like call it out) and that makes it go down.  Sometimes, if I can, I try to make fun of myself for it.  If I am light hearted about it, the person I am with can be as well.  Laughing also helps it move through my body.

What works for you might be different.  But, at least this is a starting place.

Does your irritation make more sense now?

Tell me your revelations in the comments.  Share because it always helps us to know we are not the only ones!!

If you would like support understanding and managing your irritation, we are here to support you.  Contact us! We offer counseling to anyone in the state of California via Telehealth.


  1. […] once you touch on the thought that’s causing the shame, you might immediately be in a bad mood. Irritability might come up as a result because the irritability makes space and pushes people away. This is […]

  2. […] this is you, you might not know this is what you need and you find yourself being really irritable and grumpy then thinking you are a horrible person for being that […]

    1. Jeff Dickson
      February 16, 2024

      This exactly what I needed to hear (read) right now. Thank you.

  3. […] Irritability is a particular problem for highly sensitive people, and research suggests that it may be due to the wiring of their nervous systems. […]

    1. adrianwhall
      March 5, 2022

      Yes, absolutely! It is so relieving to understand that it is not personal, but more physiological. This helps clear up shame or defensiveness to be able to actually work with it. Thank you for contributing!


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