What Is Agitated Depression And How Can It Be Treated?
Updated October 17, 2019
Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
You pace around and fidget constantly. You may have occasional feelings of hopelessness and extreme self-criticism. You find yourself with an impulse to do anything to not feel discomfort and pain. These are all hallmark characteristics of agitated depression. It does not manifest itself in the way we typically think about depression, but it is a serious condition that needs to be properly treated.
What Is Agitated Depression?
Agitated depression is a specific form of depression where a patient exhibits agitated behavior such as irritability, fidgeting, restlessness, handwringing, outbursts, or picking at their skin. The intensity of the agitation fluctuates, with instances where the symptoms of anger are more pronounced and persistent. Generally, people who suffer from depression are thought to have lower energy levels and are seen to be less active, but this is not the case with agitated depression. People with agitated depression can show symptoms of lethargy, but it is far less common. Instead, they are often fidgety and more active than people suffering from other depression types.
Treating agitated depression often requires the help of a professional. The most common treatment option is a combination of medication and therapy. Medications that may be used in treating agitated depression include antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and mood stabilizers. Managing agitated depression can be challenging, but is entirely possible, given you are willing to put in the time and effort required to see results.
What You Should Know about Agitated Depression
Agitated depression (also known as "melancholia agitate") is a specific type of depression with symptoms related to restlessness and anger. While this type of depression can stand alone, it is often accompanied by other mental ailments.
Symptoms of Agitated Depression
Agitated depression has a specific group of symptoms, the most common being extreme irritability. Sometimes people suffering from this type of depression will explode in anger for no apparent reason. They may become offended or annoyed because of something that would normally be considered insignificant. This can be difficult for families of people who suffer from this type of depression. They may feel they are walking on eggshells when a person is in this type of irritable state.
Other common symptoms include fidgeting, pacing, and general restlessness. If you notice someone is having trouble staying still, it is possible he or she could have a form of agitated depression. Even nail-biting and hand-wringing are symptoms of this condition. Any fidgety behavior that you can think of will fall under this category.
Another symptom is racing thoughts. Racing thoughts can make a person ramble on and on about nothing. People who have agitated depression have difficulties settling down, and they cannot maintain a sense of calm as easily as others. This can lead to their minds running too fast, perpetuating their feelings of restlessness.
What Causes Agitated Depression?
Some types of stress or trauma typically cause agitated depression. This could be due to the loss of a loved one or some other type of major life event. Even something such as losing a job has the potential to trigger agitated depression in certain people.
Agitated depression is also associated with several other medical conditions, including bipolar disorder, anxiety conditions, or even hypothyroidism. Hormonal imbalances have been known to cause agitated depression, and they will need to be addressed to alleviate the symptoms. There are also cases where certain medications, such as depression medications, have caused this type of depression. This isn't common, but it can be a side effect of certain drugs.
How Is Agitated Depression Diagnosed?
A psychiatrist will perform the diagnosis of agitated depression. They will need to examine the patient and see how they act. Psychiatrists will pick up on certain symptoms that a patient exhibits. Thus, a diagnosis is made through the observation of a patient's physical behaviors, talking to the patient, and a review of the patient's medical history. To diagnosis a patient with agitated depression, they must have a history of experiencing a major depressive episode in the past as well as have symptoms such as racing thoughts, restlessness, and fidgeting. A psychiatrist will also note any angry outbursts that have been reported. A professional will always do their best to get the diagnosis right so the proper treatment is given.
There are many approaches to treating agitated depression. Some professionals prefer to treat this type of depression with medication. Antidepressants can alleviate depression symptoms, while mood stabilizers can help patients avoid the severe mood swings and angry outbursts associated with agitated depression. A third option is anti-anxiety medications that work to relieve stress and anxiety, which helps treat agitated depression given that stress and traumatic events are among the many factors that contribute to the condition.
Therapy is another effective treatment. Therapy can help patients work on their issues while feeling safe. Talking about what is going on with a professional therapist can help to turn things around. Therapists can reassure their patients, be a calm force in their life, and generally help to resolve the anger they are feeling inside. It can be quite a process to eliminate agitated depression from your life, but therapy can help. When a patient is willing to commit to the process, they will be able to yield positive results.
Many times professionals will use both medication and therapy in tandem to get the best results. With the help of professionals, improvement is seen with 80% of individuals treated for depression.
Dangers of Suicide or Self-Harm
People suffering from agitated depression are thought to be at greater risk of committing suicide. Agitated depression causes racing thoughts and general restlessness. This can lead to poor decision-making and sometimes a patient will turn to self-harm. This is why those who are suffering from agitated depression must seek the right help.
Family members and close friends of those suffering from this condition need to keep an eye on their loved one. If someone who is suffering from agitated depression knows they aren't alone, it will hopefully lead them to seek out help when they have suicidal thoughts. Getting treatment can help mitigate these problems, but it is still important to remain vigilant to avoid potential tragedies.
Coping With Agitated Depression
While professional help is recommended for developing a treatment plan, there are several things you can do to help minimize the impact your symptoms have on your day-to-day life.
Exercise releases endorphins, which are a natural antidepressant. This can help minimize any symptoms you may be having and may stave off the worst of them.
Caffeine is known to reduce serotonin levels, which is the opposite of what you want happening when you are struggling with depression (it can even make your depression more severe). If you're a caffeine drinker, gradually reduce your intake until it is eliminated from your diet.
Get in the Sun
Sunlight exposure helps boost your vitamin D levels, which in turn can improve your mood. Sitting in the sun can even help improve your cognitive function, which can become impaired with agitated depression.
Even though sleeping can be difficult when you struggle with agitated depression, it is important to stay on a strict sleeping schedule. Getting enough sleep regularly can drastically improve your quality of life and your ability to cope with your symptoms.
BetterHelp is Here for You
While these tips can help minimize symptoms of agitated depression, to truly manage the condition, you will need professional help. Going to therapy will help you gain better insight into your behaviors and thought patterns. You can then work with your counselor to learn skills for changing these behaviors to better cope with your depressed mood and negative thoughts. Your therapist will also work with you to understand and prevent the outbursts that accompany agitated depression.
Even though therapy is a crucial element to recovery, you don't want it to be stressful, as the additional stress can trigger symptoms. Working together with BetterHelp solves this issue because it is entirely online. You simply communicate with your licensed, certified counselor via messages, live chat, over the phone, or with video conferencing. This means you can get the help you need when and how it is convenient for you. The counselors at BetterHelp have helped thousands of individuals who suffer from a variety of different types of depression, including agitated depression. Check out what others have to say about the BetterHelp counselors below.
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A Life You Want to Live
With a little professional help and other tools mentioned in this article, you can successfully manage your agitated depression. Take the first step to a fulfilling life.