Getting irritable about irritability?

Evid Based Ment Health. 2019 Aug;22(3):93-94. doi: 10.1136/ebmental-2019-300101. Epub 2019 Jun 27.


Despite irritability being considered a symptom of several psychiatric disorders, there is no standardised definition or measurement of the construct within psychiatry. This lack of definition is in part due to a fundamental lack of understanding of what it means to be irritable and the foundational mechanisms that lead to its manifestation. This then poses a cyclical problem, whereby because the concept of irritability is poorly defined and is defined variably in different contexts, research utilising these various definitions and measures is inherently inconsistent. Hence, a new approach to studying irritability is required, one that examines the construct as being a product of tensions that arise because of discrepancies between expectations and reality. This new bottom-up definition of irritability does not rely on phenomenology alone, and therefore can be neurocognitively mapped and tested experimentally with greater precision. By establishing more sophisticated terminology and progressing to a standardised definition, the examination of irritability can progress in a meaningful way. However, this progress cannot be achieved without collaboration and multifaceted efforts from all schools of thought. Therefore, by getting irritable about irritability ourselves, we hope that a more constructive dialogue concerning this pervasive and important concept can be instigated, involving researchers from all schools of thought.

Keywords: psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Irritable Mood*
  • Mental Disorders*