It’s entirely possible to be irritable and depressed at the same time. Although depression is often associated with only sadness or hopelessness, it can also manifest as anger, frustration, and irritability, according to Jessica Borrelli, Ph.D.,1 associate professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine.
After managing the tremendous ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s only natural for basically everyone to feel more than a little irritable as a baseline emotional state. But if you’re also dealing with things like a lack of interest in your regular hobbies, trouble thinking, wonky sleep patterns, and emotions like the aforementioned sadness and hopelessness, then you may be dealing with major depressive disorder. Or maybe you have a different condition, like bipolar disorder, that can cause depressive episodes and make it harder to manage your irritability right now too. There’s no easy way to manage depression, but hopefully, some of these strategies can help you navigate being irritable and depressed.
1. Talk to a therapist (if at all possible).
Depression can make you feel stuck, and this can be hard to overcome on your own either because you don’t know what to do or you don’t have the motivation or energy to do anything. Talking to a therapist about your feelings can help you explore whether there’s a deeper meaning behind some of your irritability, says Jessica Stern, Ph.D.,2 clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Your therapist can also help you reframe some of the negative thinking depression causes and help you find ways to include more positive experiences.
If you don’t already have a therapist, looking for one can be a long process. Asking your insurance provider for clinicians in your area is an option, but that’s not accessible to everyone. OpenPath is one resource that lists clinicians who accept reduced fees, or you can search on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration database for lower-cost centers in your area. You can also check out the Anxiety & Depression Association of America database for support groups in the U.S. If you already see a therapist, let them know that you would like help managing your irritability. They will most likely ask you for specifics examples so they can offer suggestions for your situation.
2. Consult with your doctor about taking medications that could help.
People often describe depression as feeling stuck in a cycle that’s hard to escape. Taking antidepressants can help break that cycle, according to Nicole Johnson, Ph.D.,3 licensed psychologist and associate professor of the counseling psychology program at Lehigh University College of Education. “Seeking psychiatric, in addition to psychological, support can be really helpful,” Dr. Johnson tells SELF. If you take antidepressants but feel like they aren’t helping, either because you’re really irritable, feel very down, or have other depressive symptoms, then you may want to ask your doctor to try something else or to change your dose.