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Agitation is an emotional state of restlessness, uneasiness, or excitement. It may be brought on by certain stimuli or come on out of the blue.

What causes agitation?

One of the most common reasons for agitation is an underlying mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Other causes of agitation include:

  • Stress from work or school
  • Medical conditions that cause fatigue or make it difficult to cope with everyday activities
  • Family or peer pressure
  • Burnout
  • Significant loss or bereavement
  • Hormonal imbalances, such as that caused by thyroid disorders
  • Alcohol dependence or substance misuse
  • Autism
  • Neurological disorders (rarely brain tumors).

To identify the underlying cause of your agitation, your doctor will likely start by asking you questions about your medical history and lifestyle, along with other symptoms you may be experiencing.

    What are the symptoms of agitation?

    Symptoms may vary from person to person and may include:

    • Annoyance
    • Angry outbursts
    • Anxiety
    • Difficulty concentrating, having a conversation, or focusing on a task
    • Disruptive behavior
    • Excessive talking
    • Hand wringing or fist clenching
    • Impulsiveness
    • Restlessness, pacing or inability to sit still
    • Unease.

    How is agitation diagnosed?

    Although occasional agitation is experienced by most people, if you start to experience it regularly or your feelings start to interfere with work or social interactions or pose a safety risk to yourself or others, then it may be time to see your doctor to establish a cause.

    Your doctor will ask you questions about your history and if any aspects of your personal or social life are being affected. If they suspect a physical cause, they may run some tests, such as blood or urine tests. In some cases, they may order a CT scan or MRI scan of your brain.

    How is agitation treated?

    Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include:

    • Treatment of any underlying mood disorder
    • Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, or yoga
    • Mediation
    • Psychotherapy
    • Treatment of hormonal imbalances
    • Treatment of any other underlying conditions.