Imagine a typical situation that is likely to give rise to a bad temper within an individual: a person is awoken very early in the morning by a sound of a lawn being mowed next door.

Unlike expected awakening by an alarm clock, such unexpected awakening by a lawn mower is likely to leave the person in a bad temper, feeling grumpy or sulky.

I'm interested if there's a specific hormone or process that makes a person experience the feeling of grumpiness? Is it related to adrenaline and fight or flight instinct?

In other words, can experience of grumpiness be induced under laboratory conditions by using some combination of hormones/drugs?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think morning grumpiness is related to adrenaline or fight/flight. It's more a matter of being irritated by the discomfort of abrupt awakening (at an inappropriate phase of sleep). "Grumpiness" per se is also poorly defined; for anger I am sure adrenaline and (if male) testosterone is often high, but I doubt just these hormones by themselves can induce anger (although they could make someone more prone to fits of anger). $\endgroup$
    – Superbest
    May 12, 2014 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ I've seen anecdotal evidence suggesting that "low dopamine" contributes to irritability $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Aug 17, 2014 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ I live in an apartment complex of 20 buildings. They used to send a huge loud truck around to empty the giant trash dumpsters, every Thursday at 4 am. It sounded like a war for about 20 minutes. I finally complained and they moved to 8 am. They still come around early once in a while though. I usually felt "grumpy" due to that! Who wouldn't? A completely stupid policy. $\endgroup$
    – user17124
    Oct 24, 2015 at 14:07

1 Answer 1


This is a hard question to respond to.

Many things might make someone grumpy. There are also individual temperaments, making grumpy hard to quantify - a Grumpy to one person might barely be a blip on another individual's scale. Hormones like cortisol reflect stress, and can make people in general irritable, but I doubt any one combination of hormones would always cause grumpiness.

But I thought I'd venture an answer since I did see this paper today: "Low glucose relates to greater aggression in married couples" doi: 10.1073/pnas.1400619111

Being hungry will do this for lots of people, so maybe a bit of an answer for you. There are lots of different kinds of signals that mediate hunger though, so still a tough call.

Update: here's an additional article that specifically talks about parts of the brain involved in aggression and grumpiness as response to a drop in glucose.


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