What Causes Irritability and Mood Swings? How to Get Rid of It?

Mood swings and general irritability are symptoms experienced by everyone at one point or another. They occur due to several reasons, ranging from sleep deprivation to stress. 

Surprisingly, the go-to drug for increasing cognitive abilities and eradicating daytime sleepiness – modafinil – can also be behind the feelings of irritability and mood swings. However, fortunately, there are ways to minimize and even completely prevent this.

This article sheds light on what causes irritability and mood swings and explains effective ways to manage and treat them.

What Causes Irritability?

Irritability is described as an unpleasant feeling that makes individuals react to things in such a way that they would not normally do. It is more of a symptom of underlying causes than the problem itself. If these causes are identified and managed, then this feeling will go away on its own.

Some of the causes of irritability are given below.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is very essential for the proper functioning of internal organs, especially the brain. When you do not get enough sleep, especially at night, you may feel irritated and find yourself grimacing all day long. Little wonder that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 7–8 hours of sleep for adults and up to 16 hours for babies [1].

Hormonal Fluctuations

Hormonal imbalances from hormone therapy, certain drugs, puberty, and menopause can bring about a host of psychological responses, including irritability. Any rise or fall in certain hormonal levels may lead to feelings of irritation and mood changes as well [2].


Being unduly stressed out can lead to feelings of sadness and anger. It can also facilitate irritable responses and reactions that one doesn’t plan for [3]. At such points, what one needs is time off from stressful activities. Exercising or cooling off in one way or another can also help with this feeling.


Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), which can occur due to hunger and an overdose of antidiabetic drugs, can cause various changes, including irritability [4]. Confusion and an inability to focus due to hunger can result in feelings of anger.

Certain Medications

Medications such as steroids, certain antibiotics, and even modafinil can make you feel irritated. You may find yourself being a little off and even getting angry at things that would normally not get to you. 

Other causes of irritability include depression and anxiety, severe pain, etc.

Common Causes of Mood Swings

Mood swings are just like irritability but are often more intense and sudden changes in the emotional state. Below are some of the common causes of mood swings.

Injury and Pain

Chronic illnesses, pain, and injuries can have psychological effects as much as they have physical effects. The pain center links to the brain, and feelings of constant pain can cause mood swings. Medical conditions like a stroke, dementia, and other neurological conditions can also cause intense changes in moods [5].

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD affects the way people control their impulses. A victim of ADHD will get infuriated at things that should not affect a person’s mood. Such ones are also more likely to come down with depression and anxiety problems characterized greatly by mood swings.


Foods high in refined sugars can cause a hike in blood sugar levels, and this can eventually affect brain functions, leading to prompt changes in moods and emotions. Yogurts, some salad dressings, and several other processed foods are not usually so healthy for too much consumption [2].


Coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks can cause spikes in the mood for a while, and when the effect wears off, mood swings set in. When one’s system adapts to everyday intake of caffeine, trying to cut back may result in mood swings and irritability [2].

Certain Medications

Side effects of certain medications can include mood swings as well. Modafinil can also do this for long-term use. This is because, although it enhances alertness, it doesn’t give users the full benefits a good sleep does. Having a good sleep before resuming work, for instance, will help one feel alert and refreshed and increase one’s threshold for tolerating stress. Modafinil simply increases the cognitive abilities for productivity and does not impart other benefits. But not to worry, there are ways to manage this effect.

Ways to Manage Irritability and Treat Mood Swings

Although you may be unable to control these causes, mood swings and irritability can greatly affect your relationships with people and general attitude to work. Fortunately, these conditions are manageable, and here’s how you can do this.

Get Sufficient Sleep

Sufficient sleep, especially at night, is extremely important for the proper functioning of body organs, especially the brain, as depriving yourself of sleep for a long time will lead to mood swings and feelings of irritability. 

Modafinil users are among those guilty of this. Most times because they do not take the drug at the right time. Depending on the dose, the effect of the drug lasts for about 10–12 hours. To avoid modafinil irritability, it is important to take this drug early in the morning or at a time when its effect will not inhibit the ability to fall asleep later.

Eat Well

While on drugs that can decrease appetite such as modafinil, it is important to be deliberate about eating, even though you do not feel hungry. Alternatively, you can use supplements targeted against irritability like magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc.

Avoid Excess Stress

Sometimes, you may be working towards meeting a deadline, but it is important to avoid excessive stress. Being stressed naturally brings feelings of irritability and mood swings. With drugs like modafinil, you’ll feel irritated, experience mood swings, and still be able to focus and work. However, you should learn to organize schedules to avoid excessive workload and use this drug only when needed.

Supplement Neurotransmitters

Feeling irritated and having mood swings are mostly due to the inability to tolerate stress-causing impulses at the time. To further prevent this, certain neurotransmitter supplements can be used to enhance the inhibitory effects of the brain at the time when rest should be gotten. This is especially important for those on modafinil who find it difficult to rest at the appropriate time. Some of these supplements include brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and 5-HT.


Mood swings and irritability can be caused by various reasons, including using modafinil the wrong way. If you discover that your mood swings and irritability are linked to modafinil use, it will be helpful to learn about modafinil irritability and how to avoid it. Remember to always consult your doctor or healthcare provider for advice.


  1. Do You Get Enough Sleep? Retrieved: August 14, 2022. Cdc.gov.
  2. Common Causes of Mood Swings. Medically reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD, on March 1, 2021. Retrieved: August 14, 2022. Webmd.com.
  3. What Causes Irritability? Written by Jamie Eske. Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD. Retrieved: August 14, 2022. Medicalnewstoday.com.
  4. Hypoglycemia: The Neglected Complication. By Sanjay Kalra, Jagat Jyoti Mukherjee, Subramanium Venkataraman, et al. Published: September 2013. Retrieved: August 14, 2022. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
  5. What causes mood swings in males and females? Written by Jayne Leoanard. Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, M.D., MPH. Retrieved: August 14, 2022. Medicalnewstoday.com.