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Agitation: Causes, Treatment, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Sep 20, 2021

What is agitation?

Agitation, or agitated depression, is a fairly serious medical condition pertaining to mental health. Its main symptoms include restlessness and anger, as opposed to the lethargy that is such as well-known characteristic of depression. This condition also occurs commonly in people suffering from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Therapy is largely recommended in most mental health scenarios. Through therapy, patients can learn to recognize and counter their triggers, which can help prevent the onset of agitation. Cognitive behavioural therapy is often used to work through behaviours and feelings in order to change the way the patient behaves at a given moment, which also helps reduce the severity of the agitation. Finally, electroshock therapy can also be used as a treatment for agitation, though this is only meant for extreme cases and not all patients.

What are signs of Agitation?

Common signs of Agitation include:

  • Little patience.
  • An urge to move, maybe with no purpose.
  • An uneasy feeling.
  • Nervousness.
  • Crankiness.
  • Too much excitement.
  • Stubborn behavior (often toward caregivers).

Aggression can also be seen when an individual is agitated, but it is not the same. Generally, a person feels agitated in some cases, but it becomes a mental disorder when the Agitation is frequent and can be seen in almost every scenario.

Is Agitation a sign of anxiety?

Anxiety can trigger various actions in the body. When a person is under anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system goes under overdrive mode which kicks off a series of actions throughout the body which includes sweaty palms, shaky hands, racing pulse, and dry mouth. These symptoms also trigger when your brain senses that your body is in danger.

Your body tends to shut most of its internal activities to prepare the body to react to a threat situation. Your digestive system tends to shut down followed by increased heart rate and heightened senses, to have a fight or flight response.

These responses are healthy when your body is actually under threat, but can create adverse effects when the fear is all in your head. Prolong episodes of anxiety can cause reactions like depression and Agitation which can cause other mental conditions like anxiety and panic disorders.

What is the difference between Agitation and aggression?

Agitation refers to a state of restlessness and inner tension. It can happen even with small physical distress like pinching pain or feeling of being sick to psychological distress when someone or something annoyed you. Since it is a part of a normal emotional system, it is not considered a disorder, yet it has some level or parameters onto which it can be concluded as abnormal.

On the other hand, aggression can be described as a sudden state of aggressive behavior that can harm oneself and others in terms of physical and psychological aspects.

While Agitation is just a minor reaction, aggression mainly centers it results towards harming an individual on harming another person either physically or mentally. Aggression is neither safe nor considered a healthy emotion.

What causes agitation?

Agitation can be verbal (such as shouting at others) or physical (such as getting into a fight, hitting someone, breaking things).Intervening early during the onset of an episode can help prevent it from escalating.

What is the agitated behavior scale?

The ABS is a psychological tool that has been developed to assess the level and diversion of Agitation. Its key purpose is to analyze a patient's Agitation by a serial assessment conducted by a team of treatment professionals. It is quite common that when a person undergoes the initial phase of recovery from a brain injury Agitation blount to happen, so the medical team uses the instruments used to analyze ABS to see its effects on the overall recovery.

Can pain make you agitated?

One of the key side effects physical or emotional pain gives is emotional distress. It is also the reason why pain is also expressed as a state of suffering. It can be seen as anxiety, fear, anger, Agitation, guilt, depression, and frustration, etc. It has also been seen that pain also brings negative thoughts about your condition, which most of the patients often imagine.

Prolong pain can increase the duration of emotional distress, making them more exhausted and mentally fragile. It is important to console and give immediate relief to the patient to make them feel less agitated.

How is agitation treated?

There are three main ways of treating agitation: medication, therapy, and electroshock treatment.

  • Medication:

    Doctors may prescribe a combination of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antianxiety medications to help counter the agitation felt by the patient. More often than not, in cases where mental health is concerned, you will be required to visit your doctor every week or every two weeks, depending on the severity of the problem.

    As the treatment itself is gradual (often, it takes almost a week just for the medications to begin taking effect!), this helps your doctor gauge your progress and whether any adjustments are needed.

    He or she will also continually ask you about side effects and your emotional state to confirm whether the medication is a right fit for you. Don’t be alarmed if you face mild side effects initially as these medications are meant to stabilize a lot of the symptoms of agitation and it takes a while for your body to adjust to them.

  • Therapy:

    Therapy, as a treatment, usually just involves a lot of talking and self-analyses, which can help you not only understand yourself better but also control your emotions in a more effective manner. When it comes to therapy, it also starts as soon as you are diagnosed.

    Your therapist and psychiatrist may not be the same doctor, and that is all right. The goal with therapy is to gain a deeper understanding of the environmental elements that can trigger your agitation and bring an episode on so it is important to be honest during your sessions.

  • Electroshock treatment:

    Electroshock therapy takes place in a hospital or any other safe medical environment. Unlike what is shown in the movies, electroshock treatment is not violent and patients are often sedated to prevent them from feeling pain.

    A bite is inserted into the mouth so that the tongue isn’t bitten off and the shock is administered to the temples in the desired amount. The patient wakes up in his or her own bed and does not recall the procedure due to the sedation. The procedure helps stabilize electrical synapses in the brain, which can control your agitation.

How can I calm my Agitation?

Agitation can be prolonged or short-lived, which depends on the reason or underlying condition which triggered it. One can easily master the tricks through which you can calm yourself when agitated.

The first step is to accept the fact that being anxious or angry is totally normal and you can be one sometimes. It allows an individual to say that you’re anxious or angry and work towards that feeling. When you know how you feel, it allows your emotional system to express it which helps to decrease your anxiety and anger.

  • Release the anxiety or anger: When a person is angry or agitated your body produces an excess amount of serotonin which makes you feel more active. Scientists believe that to make oneself sable, one must realize that physical energy.

    Physical exercises like running help you calm down and feel better, but engaging in physical activities that are violent in nature like fighting should be avoided as it can escalate the Agitation.

  • Identify pressure points to calm anger and anxiety: Ancient therapists believe that acupressure can help release physical tension and help you manage anxiety and anger. Knowing which pressure points will help you release your Agitation will make you feel calm and happy.

    This will involve gently putting pressure on your hand with your thumb or finger at certain points of the body and gently massage the muscle to feel relaxed. For instance, massaging the inside of your wrist with your thumb to form a crease with your hand for two minutes can help relieve tension.

  • Relax your body: Under Agitation or any mental discomfort your muscles start to clench and one can feel stress and tension in the muscles. Techniques like progressive muscle relaxation can aid an individual to calm down and center themselves. This is an easy technique to follow and one can perform it at home without aunty supervision, all you have to do is lie down on the floor and keep your arms out on the side of your body.

    Then start whispering each part of your body from toe to head to relax and release the tension until you reach the head, make sure your hands aren’t in fists and feet aren’t crossed.


Are there any side effects?

As is the case with most medicines, there are certain side effects that one needs to be vary of. Lorazepam is a drug that is commonly used to treat agitated depression, however its side effects can lead to the development of respiratory depression. Haloperidol has a few side effects as well such as akathisia, acute dystonic reaction, and a decrease in the seizure threshold.

Olazapine can lead to some weight gain over time. There are no specific side effects of therapy. Electroshock therapy can lead to confusion and problems with the memory (though memory problems do go away a few months after the treatment is over), headache, jaw pain, nausea, and muscle aches. These can be treated with the help of medicines.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

The main guideline for treating agitation is to follow the routine of taking the medicines as strictly as possible. Maintaining a specific time to take the medicines can help habituate it, leading to a lesser likelihood of forgetting and tampering with the progress of the treatment. With therapy, post treatment guidelines include patient specific guidelines that pertain to the therapy session.

These are normally behavioural guidelines for both, the patient, and the people around him/her. Minimizing the exposure to triggers is also an important part of the post treatment process. Since the treatment and recovery is one that takes a while, the guidelines are usually meant to alter the lifestyle of the patient while the treatment is occurring, so that it can be sped up. With most variants of depression, including agitated depression, patients are advised to monitor and control their outlook once the medication period is over.

How long does it take to recover?

With most problems related to mental health, the recovery time really depends on the patient. With the constant use of medication, therapy, and other behavioural and lifestyle guidelines that are meant to help the patients, the frequency of the episodes can be largely reduced, and, if possible, eliminated entirely over a period of time.

Patients suffering from the same disorder and taking the same medication can have varying recovery periods. In the case of mental health, it can be harmful to expect to get better by a specific time as it leads to undue pressure on the patient, leading to more stress and further problems.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Most medications that your doctor may prescribe to you can range from Rs 150 – 300 for a single leaf. Medications that are designed for mental health are often more expensive than the ones designed for physical health and it’s a cost that one should be prepared for.

The cost of therapy in India ranges from doctor to doctor however, it can fall anywhere from Rs 1,500 – 5,000 per hour, depending on who you are seeing. The cost of electro convulsive therapy ranges from Rs 500 – Rs 1000 per dosage and many private psychiatrists also administer this procedure in India.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The treatment of agitation is not permanent. There are many factors that can trigger agitation, even after being treated, which is why most doctors will advise you that it is extremely important to maintain a positive outlook.

By continually questioning yourself, adding stress, and dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions, you can cause your agitation to come back in varying levels of severity. Agitation can also be caused by external events such as grieving over death, a stressful time period, or a traumatic event in life, which is why it’s important to always monitor and control your emotions.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

If medication is not your cup of tea, you can opt for certain herbal remedies to counter the effects of agitation in your life. Certain essential oils such as the oils of clary sage, lavender, and myrrh are known for their antidepressant properties and can be used to stabilize your mood.

Using these oils during a massage, or adding them to a diffuser and allowing their fragrance to spread through your room can help you combat depression and agitation.

Practising yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can also help you stabilize your mood. However, it is important to note that with most medical problems, it is extremely important to speak to a health care professional so that you are not putting yourself in any jeopardy.

Summary: Agitation can be described as a sudden state of aggressive behavior that can harm oneself and others in terms of physical and psychological aspects. While Agitation is just a minor reaction, it can easily be controlled with the help of emotional and environmental changes.


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Written ByMs. Taral Parekh Post Graduate Diploma In Counselling Psychology,Masters of Counselling Psychology,CE in Cognitive Behavior TherapyPsychology
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