Agitated depression: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Agitated depressionAgitated depression is a common mental illness among the elderly and is often described as a state of both depressive symptoms and mania.

People who suffer from agitated depression are often irritable, have insomnia, panic attacks, or have suicidal thoughts. Unlike other depressive conditions, agitated depression can be rather severe and debilitating. The best agitated depression definition would be a person who is restless, irritable, and is experiencing normal signs of depression all at the same time.


While fatigue and lack of motivation have always been associated with major depressive disorders, people who have agitated depression face the same sense of melancholy but also feel angry or unusually agitated. Since it overlaps with other psychological conditions, it can be hard to diagnose correctly.

Causes of agitated depression

Agitation depression causes can be attributed to several psychiatric as well as neurological sources. Below you will see a list of the potential triggers for depression agitation:

Bipolar disorder: Some studies suggest that the root of agitation in depression may stem from other disorders, including bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterized by shifts in mood, energy, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Central nervous system diseases: Certain diseases, including brain abscess, dementia or even a brain tumor can increase the risk of being diagnosed with agitated depression.

Drug or alcohol use: Research indicates that some people who suffer from agitated depression have problems with drug or alcohol use. Some individuals try to treat mental illness by self-medicating, which can cause deeper depression or trigger agitation.

Genes: Some people simply inherit genes from parents who had some form of depression.

Lifestyle factors: There are cases where life events can trigger different forms of depression. Loss of a loved one, loss of job, difficult relationships, and financial hardship are examples of those triggers.

Agitated depression causes have also been linked to chronic pain and diseases of the heart and lungs. Ironically, there are some people who suffer from agitated depression because the medications they were originally prescribed to deal with some other form of depression triggered agitation. This is why you often hear that people who suffer from depression have to try various medications before they find one that works.

Agitated depression symptoms

When medical experts discuss agitated depression symptoms, they often refer to two phases of the disorder: psychotic and non-psychotic. In the psychotic form, the person is manic in that they are overexcited, talkative, or hyperactive. Switching from laughter to an irritable or depressed state in a matter of minutes is common. There are also illusions and hallucinations. In the non-psychotic form, there are no illusions or hallucinations.

Here’s a look at some of the various symptoms of agitated depression:

  • Inability to sit still for long
  • Frequent outbursts
  • Aggression
  • Intense thoughts and feelings
  • Fast-paced speech pattern
  • Constant wringing of hands
  • Pulling on skin, nails, or hair
  • Extreme irritability, such as yelling at friends, getting annoyed with little things
  • Fidgeting
  • Pacing
  • Nail biting
  • Racing or crowded thoughts
  • Poor sleep
  • Constant complaining
  • Excessive talking
  • Increased heartbeat

Agitated depression risk factors

Agitated depression has no boundaries—anyone can suffer from it. You are more likely to suffer from this form of depression though if you have certain risk factors, including those listed below:

A member of the family has or had suffered from some form of depression

  • You regularly overindulge in alcohol
  • You suffer from a sleep disorder, such as insomnia
  • Use street drugs, like cocaine, heroin, or morphine
  • Are under a great deal of pressure to perform at school or work
  • You have an underlying mental health problem
  • You have suffered from depression in the past
  • Are suffering from a chronic condition
  • You are financial stressed
  • Live in isolation
  • You have constant negative perceptions about life

Diagnosis and treatment of agitated depression

When someone shows signs that are associated with agitated depression, doctors will rule out other causes before making a definitive diagnosis. They might perform X-rays or an MRI. They will likely take blood and urine samples. If the patient has experienced at least one major depressive episode and is agitated, restless, experiences crowded thoughts and intense inner tension, but there doesn’t seem to be any other cause, a diagnosis of agitated depression may be made.

Once a diagnosis is made, treatment of agitated depression should start immediately. Depending on the symptoms and severity of the condition, the patient will be advised to undergo counseling or be prescribed medications, such as antipsychotics or anti-depressants. Agitated depression treatment can also be a combination of therapy and medication.

Mood stabilizers are commonly prescribed for people who suffer from agitated depression, but this type of medication has to be taken daily, which can be difficult for many patients. When a person suffering from agitated depression becomes unbalanced, they may forget or refuse to take medication. Individuals who have difficulty with maintaining their medication routine are often recommended psychiatric treatment. A psychotherapist can help the patient calm down and lower their internal stress level.

Natural remedies for agitated depression

Although there are many medications available to treat the severity of depression, there are also natural remedies that can be effective too. For instance, agitated depression symptoms can be treated with different herbal supplements. Many people with depression agitation who suffer from anxiety and sleep disorders find St. John’s Wort helpful. They say that taking the supplement regularly gives them a better sense of “control” over their lives. Another powerful herb that has been known to alleviate mood swings and irritability is gingko biloba. Research suggests that it improves blood flow in the brain. Kava kava, licorice, and lemon balm have also been used to treat those suffering from agitated depression.


Here are some other more natural ways to treat agitated depression:

  • Find the cause: If stressful situations trigger the depression, try to lower stress and anxiety in your life. This can be easier said than done, but it can work if you find distractions, such as treating yourself to something nice. For instance, you can walk away from the stressful situation and go for a walk on the beach or get yourself a massage.
  • Reach out to family and friends: Talking with family and friends can be a great support because they are usually the people who care about you the most. If family and friends are not nearby, there may be a depression hotline or online chat group you can turn to for free.
  • Adjust your diet: There can be chemicals in the food you eat that throw you off balance. While it may contribute a little to the depression, eating a healthy diet has been known to help those suffering from mood swings.
  • Exercise: Getting regular exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain. This can help to improve mood. Many experts suggest that exercise can release anger. Jogging, brisk walking, karate, and using a punching bag are good ways to exercise and release anger.
  • Get a regular sleep schedule: Try to get to bed at the same time and get up at the same time each day. Also do your best to get eight hours of sleep each night. It is helpful if you avoid using your bedroom for other activities, such as working on your laptop or watching TV. Use your bed for what it is intended—sleeping.
  • Meditation: This has proven to be a great way for many people to reduce stress and anger. People who suffer from agitated depression also use yoga.
  • Healthy ways to release anger: There are different ways you can get rid of agitation or anger. For instance, yelling where no one can hear you can be helpful, as can writing a hateful letter and then tossing it in the trash.
  • Find good things in life: When you feel down, write down all the good things that happen in the day or that have happened throughout your life.

Depression of any kind can be a horrible, lonely feeling, but the reality is, you are not alone. Family, friends, and support groups are in a better position to assist sufferers today as opposed to a decade ago thanks to depression awareness and education. The medical profession has also made great strides when it comes to depression research and treatment. If you or someone you know seems to be suffering from any form of depression, getting help is very important.

Related: 19 essential oils for depression


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