Feeling angrier and more irritable lately? We got a psychiatrist to explain why

The world as we know has changed. And adapting to the new normal is bound to give rise to feelings of frustration and anger. If you have feeling it too, then read this.
mental health
You need to actively shift your focus away from complaining. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Jyoti Kapoor Updated: 25 Sep 2020, 07:34 pm IST
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Emotions are the result of neurochemical reactions of our nervous system to various environmental stimuli. When we perceive events as favourable, positive emotions are generated. This happens because happy chemicals are released in our body. Unfavourable circumstances, on the other hand, have the opposite effect. 

Any situation that we perceive as harmful or threatening, activates the stress response in our brain. Now, this releases stress chemicals linked to ‘flight or fight response’ in the body, which thus gets triggered.

Anger is a manifestation of this ‘fight’ response and makes us behave aggressively. Since anger is closely associated with our stress tolerance capacity, different people respond differently to the same event. 

Covid-19 stress has altered our emotional state
The covid-19 pandemic, the effects of the lockdown, constant negative news on social and mainstream media, doubts and conflicts in society due to uncertainty related to socio economic and health related outcomes… all these things have increased stress levels world wide.

When this external stress goes well beyond our coping capacity and stressors persist—a state of exhaustion settles in, leading to poor control over our emotions. This could be one of the major reasons why many of us have been angrier than usual. 

Some other factors that are contributing to our emotional state, inciting anger includes: 

1. Inadequate or doubtful information which causes doubt, resulting in anxiety.

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2. Anxiety can be another culprit. It is often associated with physical symptoms like muscle tension, stomach issues, palpitations, and lower immune response. Not to mention, mentally we tend to go over negative scenarios again and again. This can cause a lot of frustration and anger.

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3. Physical symptoms of anxiety when combined with covid-19 stress and make you irritable.

4. Being confined at home with limited social interaction takes away our opportunity to relax through positive social interaction, further increasing stress. This can also cause frustration and anger.

5. Work and school from home have created new adjustment problems for all of us. With limited space and household help, everyone appears to be stepping on someone else’s toes.

6. Negative propaganda surrounding policies, healthcare system, and discrimination of people tested positive for coronavirus has created an intensely distrustful environment. It’s like being in a warzone, and so no one can thus relax or enjoy the things—giving rise to irritability.

Here’s what you can do to tame your anger

1. Be positive
It’s our only weapon against negativity. If we keep hearing and presuming that everything around us will fall apart, we won’t be able to do anything to save ourselves or others. Positive thoughts generate positive feelings that help with stress management, and reduce anger.

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2. Take precautions
Precaution, not over caution, is the key to well-being. We have to accept that until a definitive cure is found, the disease can affect anyone severely and therefore we need to focus on our safety. If everyone one takes care of himself/herself, the rate of transmission will decline.

3. Be grateful
Being grateful to elements around us, be it human or non human, is one way of finding the right chemical balance to avoid anger and agitation.

4. Practice empathy

We expect people to understand our mood, but hardly return the favour. What a person may be going through when he/she acted out of line may help us control our immediate reactions.

5. Be tolerant

Adapting requires accepting a situation and being tolerant. Being tolerant towards day-to-day situations like power cuts, hot climate, car breaking down in the middle of the road etc helps us save energy to deal with the situation rather than blaming someone and giving up.

We have to stop hoping that the world goes back to the way it was and start hoping that we adapt ourselves better to the present situation so that we can live better.

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About the Author

Dr Jyoti Kapoor is the founder and director, and senior psychiatrist at Manasthali. She pursued medical education from Sardar Patel Medical College and her interest in mysteries of human emotions and behavior inspired her to study psychiatry as her post-graduate course from Pt BD Sharma Institute of Medical Sciences. She has been practicing psychiatry now for more than 15 years. Her first anthology of the undulating course of love and its many expressions: 'Itineris- The journey through mirages', was published in 2017.  ...Read More

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