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Resource type: Article

Irritability and mood swings

It is common to feel that your mood and emotions are much more ‘up and down’ for a while after having spent time in Intensive Care. Patients often say that when they get home or are more physically able, this is when the emotional impact of what has happened becomes much more obvious. The relief of being alive can sometimes be quickly followed by deep sadness or anger about “why me?” and “it’s so unfair”.

Not knowing or not remembering how you ended up in Intensive Care, or what happened while you were there, for example, can leave people feeling understandably anxious and full of questions and doubts, especially if you became ill without any warning.

It is common to be more easily startled by noise or irritated by things that used to be easy to ‘brush off’. Other issues such as feeling physically weak, easily fatigued or breathless, not having an appetite or eating too much, or sleeping much more/ less than usual can also negatively our emotional wellbeing.

You might be frustrated with yourself because you feel that you should be recovering more quickly, or you may feel like your family members are holding you back by being overly-protective and not allowing you to do things for yourself. You might find yourself snapping at your family members for no apparent reason.

If your thinking feels slower and it’s harder to concentrate, and you notice that you can’t remember new things easily or forget things that you previously knew, this can add to the sense of frustration and loss.

You might be worried about the future, getting ill again, money, going back to work, not feeling the same or wonder if other people think of you differently. The list may seem endless. All of this means that you might feel up one day and down the next.

Try not to be too hard on yourself. Feeling like this is very common, and things get better over time for many people. One of the most helpful things is usually to speak with your family about how you're feeling. Mood swings and irritability may be a normal response to what you have been through, but if it doesn’t begin to pass a few weeks after you return home, it may be worth speaking to a healthcare professional to find out if there is another cause that needs to be treated.

If you feel you need help with this problem, see the separate article on getting help 

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