What Is Agitation?

Agitation is a mental health condition that leads to feelings of restlessness, nervousness, excitability, and an inability to sit still. It’s a symptom of certain illnesses, such as mania, anxiety disorder, and dementia, as well as a side effect of some medications. It can range from mild to severe and last for only a short period of time or continue for months or years.

What Are the Symptoms of Agitation?

Common signs of agitation include:

  • Excessive pacing or ruminating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Argumentative behavior
  • Excessive talking
  • Inability to relax or sit still
  • Social isolation

What Causes Agitation?

Agitation has many potential causes, including medical conditions and medications that can cause other mental symptoms, such as anxiety. Common causes include:

  • Mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, dementia, or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Physical health issues, such as a fever, an infection, and certain forms of brain injuries
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants, sedatives, and beta-blockers
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Stressful events or situations

How Is Agitation Diagnosed?

When trying to diagnose the cause of agitation, the doctor will typically ask about the symptoms, medical history, lifestyle, and any medications or drugs being used. The doctor may use questionnaires and tests to assess mental status.

How Is Agitation Treated?

Treatment for agitation is based on the underlying cause. It may involve lifestyle changes, psychological therapy, or medications. Treatment options for agitation can include:

  • CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) to help manage symptoms of the condition
  • Medications, such as anti-anxiety or antipsychotic drugs, to help manage agitation
  • Counseling or therapy to help manage lifestyle changes or identify underlying causes
  • Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or guided imagery, to help reduce stress and anxiety
  • Support groups to provide emotional support and help you cope with the condition