woman with anger problem

Anger or Irritability Ruining Your Relationships?

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Cranky, angry, irritable, short-tempered, call it what you will but it’s not necessarily just your personality, in fact, most often it’s not. There are real physical explanations as to why you may feel anger and be yelling at your spouse or your kids. It may be that you need to exercise a bit more self-control – count to 10 or take a few deep breaths before you speak, but it may also be more complicated and it may be something very difficult to control until you address the root cause.

What causes anger or irritability?

  1. Injustice – if I ask patients what makes them angry the answer is often “injustice”. Personally being wronged, maligned or persecuted, or more global injustice.  This is normal empathy in action.
  2. Frustration – not being understood or listened to is often a source of anger and frustration.
  3. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar – it’s referred to as being “hangry” (hungry and angry). If eating helps reduce irritability, then the anger is due to a dip in blood sugar. These dips are a common phenomenon, but not a normal one. The body should correct dips in blood sugar without the need to eat (via the adrenal glands and liver). Supporting these organs can relieve hypoglycemic irritability.
  4. Hormone imbalance – yes this can cause irritability, but a word to the wise: don’t tell your partner that she’s angry due to PMS. I can almost guarantee that this statement will not go well for you. In the grips of a hormone imbalance or fluctuation, whatever the cause of the anger seems real, valid and important. Let a few days pass and this person can discuss things much more calmly and rationally.  If there are other signs or symptoms of hormone imbalance, such as acne, painful periods, hair loss, excess facial or body hair growth, or irregular periods, this may be well worth further investigation.
  5. Tiredness – when we’re tired, our normal ability to reign in anger or exhibit self control doesn’t work as well as it normally would. Whatever the issue, it may be best to table it to be dealt with another day when you’ve had more sleep.
  6. Stress – stress can manifest as anger and irritability. Sadly, our release valve for all that pressure is often most likely to burst with those closest to us. If it’s work stress, you have to ask yourself if your job is really worth damaging your relationship with those closest to you?  If it’s relationship stress, time to seek some help to work things out.

Blood tests that might help source out a physical cause of anger or aggression: total testosterone, DHEAs, DHT, androstenedione, prolactin, estradiol (cycle day 3 in women), progesterone (cycle day 21 or 7 days post ovulation in women).

If you suspect anger issues may be caused by hormone imbalance, I can help get hormones tested and straightened out naturally.  Book an appointment for help. 

Anger Research:

von der Pahlen B.The role of alcohol and steroid hormones in human aggression. Vitam Horm. 2005;70:415-37.