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Getting irritable about irritability?
  1. Gin Malhi1,2,
  2. Erica Bell1,2,
  3. Tim Outhred1,2
  1. 1 Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2 Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Sydney Northern Clinical School, St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Gin Malhi, University of Sydney Sydney Medical School, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia; gin.malhi{at}


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.

  • psychiatry

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  • Contributors All authors contributed equally to the development and authorship of this article.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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