After languishing for years in the shadows of psychiatry's definition of adult depression, irritability is finally getting some respect again. It's about damned time, you might say.
A new study has found that people suffering a major depressive episode who report they have become grouchy, hostile, grumpy, argumentative, foul-tempered or angry will likely have a "more complex, chronic and severe form" of major depressive disorder than those who do not acknowledge irritable feelings and behavior.
We're not talking about a small minority of the depressed either: In this 30-year study of 536 subjects who first presented with depression, 54% acknowledged irritability in feelings and behavior. And while cussedness is increasingly recognized as a hallmark of depression in men, the current study found that a majority of women fell into its "irritable" group as well.
Compared with the merely sad, guilt-ridden and lethargic, the irritable depressed had more severe depressive symptoms. They stayed depressed for longer. They relapsed more readily. And they were more likely to experience other psychiatric conditions as well, including anxiety and substance abuse disorders, impulse-control problems and antisocial behavior, the study showed.