Without a doubt, irritability is a symptom of anger, as it is a response to that underlying feeling of vexation or annoyance. It is the outward manifestation of that feeling, and as such can erupt into anger if pushed far enough. To irritate someone is to stimulate them towards an outburst of anger, and it would be wise to take note of a person demonstrating irritability in his or her behavior. Everyone has a threshold of tolerance, and everyone can be pushed over it by the actions and behaviors of others. The human child learns this at an early age, but sometimes forgets the lessons as life progresses.
For example, most people would recognize the following scenario. You are 12 years old and you MUST HAVE something everyone else has, or you will be the laughing-stock of your peers. You go home to find your mom up to her eyes in making dinner, loading the washing machine and laying the table. So far, so good. But you have a mission, and begin to explain why you have to have this THING. It is uppermost in your mind, so you have failed to note that mom is very,very busy and maybe even a little stressed. She dismisses your request for your heart's desire, but you persist.
Her responses become less friendly and mom-like, and you are most definitely an irritant. She asks you to leave it for now, but no, you want her to promise to get you a whatever. You are pushing your luck, and pushing her to the inevitable outburst of anger, that was signalled by her growing irritability. Nobody wins, as the exchange descends into shouts and sulks. We have all been there and done this.
On a very simple, physical level, a small irritation can result in quite dramatic outbursts of anger. Take for instance a tangled gold chain that you are painstakingly untangling with the help of a needle, your best reading glasses and a huge amount of patience. Every time you get one knot undone, another springs up to take its place. You become quite irritable with the process, which is denying you the satisfaction of achieving your goal. Fingers and eyes get tired, an inordinate amount of time is being consumed, and you are getting nowhere with the task. Anger erupts and you fling chain,eyeglasses, needle and all into the bin. Once you have cooled down, of course you will retrieve them and start again.
In polite society, it is the norm to hide irritability and to keep anger under control. Smiling through gritted teeth, while inwardly seething is a common, everyday occurrence for most of us. After all, who likes to deal with those who demonstrate irritable behavior that might just erupt into an angry outburst? Sometimes, it just has to come out, and when it does, there are rarely any winners.
Anger itself is a cleansing, therapeutic and sometimes righteous emotional response that should never be dismissed as unacceptable. The right anger, used at the right time, has the power to clear the air and to help move forwards to better things. But the slow build-up that is signalled by irritability should be noted and dealt with, if human interaction is to produce positive outcomes and better relationships.
By identifying what makes an individual irritable, be it oneself or others, steps can be taken to diffuse this, before the anger emerges, and poor teddy is chucked out of the pram. Each of us is aware of how far we can be pushed, and with irritability, a symptom of our underlying anger, we are attempting to make others aware of this. Like the Incredible Hulk, we are saying "You won't like me when I'm mad."