Signs and Symptoms: Irritability and Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


Experiencing Irritability

A young woman biting a notebook, looking stressed and dealing with irritability and adrenal fatigueIf you are suffering from Adrenal Fatigue, you are most likely experiencing irritability along with stress. These symptoms tend to make life much harder, primarily making it difficult to get along with other people. This article will explore the relationship between stress, irritability and Adrenal Fatigue, as well as other physical triggers and controls that are correlated with irritability. It will also talk about the role Adrenal Fatigue plays.

Decreased levels of cortisol can result in your body becoming more susceptible to stress. Stress is the perfect setting and environment for an irritable state. In addition to stress, Adrenal Fatigue frequently leads to tiredness, with many people finding that they are quite agitated when tired. Adrenal Fatigue symptoms aren’t just tiredness, but can be one of the many symptoms you may be facing in your day-to-day life.

As a result of Adrenal Fatigue, situations that were never a problem before become stressful, irritating, and tend to bother you much more. People, events, and other minor circumstances become a very big deal. For example, a general feeling of hunger when you haven’t eaten in some time, may turn into a feeling of annoyance that can become increasingly bothersome.

This type of physical state can make even the simplest things extremely unpleasant. It might be difficult to make it through the day without becoming irritated. Even small work related tasks or chores might seem to take forever to complete or constantly end with poor results. Irritability can also create tension between people, aggravate tempers, and lead to confrontations and fights.

One of the most frustrating aspects of irritability is not understanding why or where this irritable feeling is originating. Even when you try to try to take deep breaths and calm down, the stress shortly reintroduces itself again and annoyance begins to creep in. This condition can be very unpleasant and difficult to control.

It is important to note that an increase in agitation is often the body’s way of telling you that there is a physical issue or chemical imbalance. Why is it that some people experience a sudden increase in irritability? A lot of this can be attributed to the hormone epinephrine, stress, and the adrenal glands, especially when these begin to get out of balance.

Understanding Irritability and Adrenal Fatigue

When the human body is exposed to stress, there is a built-in mechanism that helps it cope. Stress can either be physical or emotional. Physical stress, is oftentimes caused by extreme exercise or overexertion. On the other hand, emotional stress can be triggered by the death of a loved one, work, or a bad relationship.

During times of stress, the body’s neurometabolic and endocrine response system kicks into gear. Part of this response system involves the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). The HPA axis regulates the release of many hormones in the body, including cortisol. Cortisol levels increase and decrease in your body depending on the level of stress in your system. When physical or emotional stress is involved in your life for a prolonged period, it can be very damaging to the adrenal system. This is because the adrenal system must work overtime in order to help your body fight and overcome the additional stress.

Naturally, the more stress present, the harder the adrenal glands must work. If this continues for years, your adrenal system becomes exhausted and weaker. When your adrenal system becomes weak enough, your body must slow down in order to preserve itself and survive. This means that various functions begin to slow, such as gastric assimilation, metabolism, and liver function. All of this subsequently leads to many different symptoms, including brain fog: a feeling of mental confusion where the individual lacks mental clarity.

A business professional at her computer looking tired with irritability and adrenal fatigueAs your body gets weaker, the adrenal glands capability to produce cortisol in response to stress decreases and you will naturally become more irritable. As a last resort, your body will release a hormone known as norepinephrine. This hormone is involved with the brain and it has a few different responsibilities. Norepinephrine is responsible for keeping you alert, as well as on edge.

Norepinephrine can be found in a variety of street drugs, because it helps to enhance and sharpen cognitive function. Unfortunately, norepinephrine has certain side effects that are worth noting. Too much norepinephrine can cause you to become jittery, anxious, and can even contribute to panic attacks. Irritability is one of the early signs caused by an excess of norepinephrine. High levels of norepinephrine, along with epinephrine, is an indication that the fight or flight response is being triggered. There are different measures and methods that your body uses in order to protect, help, and guide people, especially when facing possible internal threats. These physical and emotional reactions are in some ways a red flag.

Since norepinephrine and epinephrine are last resort responses, they lack opposing hormones. Therefore, these hormones do not have an off switch. In order for norepinephrine’s effect to wear off, your body has to burn off and metabolize all of these hormones.

What to Do About Irritability

The sympathetic nervous system has the task of releasing certain amounts of epinephrine. Actions can be taken to calm the sympathetic nervous system, which may help the situation. One action that is recommended by therapists is adrenal breathing exercises. Adrenal breathing exercises activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). PNS is the opposing system to the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). While it does not completely shut down the SNS, the PNS does help calm your body down by acting on opposing receptor sites in your body. It is known as the “rest and digest” system as opposed to the SNS “flight or fight” system.

Also, It helps to be aware of solutions and have a specific plan for attacking chemical imbalances in your body. Nothing is more debilitating than feeling lost and stuck, unable to move forward or make any progress on a specific health issue.

More importantly, it is essential to have the ability to handle and take control of these issues. Irritability can cause a number of disruptions in your life. It is always unpleasant to feel agitated and upset while trying to get through the day. An irritable state also ends up affecting your friends, family and colleagues. The objective is finding a new balance with epinephrine once again. When irritability is reduced, it helps the adrenal system get back in harmony and regain its balance.

A man grabbing his head looking tired and stressed, suffering from irritability and adrenal fatigue.If you are easily irritated and stressed, it may be an indication of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, as this is common in the early stages. It helps to know that you can take immediate steps in order to improve your lifestyle and make a positive impact to fight Adrenal Fatigue. As a result, you will experience a reduction of stress, irritability, and anxiety. If you recognize that you may have this imbalance, you are half of the way to becoming healthy again.

It may help to take naps and avoid unnecessary stress from things like toxic relationships, as well as other bad or unhealthy situations. The very first step to recovery is identifying the potential warning signs and finding out what the problem is. From there, you can start to make gradual improvements. Irritability is only one of many symptoms, and it can also be related to a number of illnesses or personal events. However, if a person finds that they are experiencing other signs of Adrenal Fatigue, this condition is most likely a match.


© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

A business professional at her computer looking tired with irritability and adrenal fatigue

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This is an expression of appreciation. As a 70 year old who has been controlling cholesterol for many, many years without medication, and studying how to do it… your article on the subject is the most clear and the most complete I have seen. Thank you!!




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