Agitation

Definition

Agitation is an unpleasant state of extreme arousal. An agitated person may feel stirred up, excited, tense, confused, or irritable.

Considerations

Agitation can come on suddenly or over time. It can last for a few minutes, for weeks, or even months. Pain, stress, and fever can all increase agitation.

Agitation by itself may not be a sign of a health problem. But if other symptoms occur, it can be a sign of disease.

Agitation with a change in alertness (altered consciousness) can be a sign of delirium. Delirium has a medical cause and should be checked by a health care provider right away.

Causes

There are many causes of agitation. Some of them are:

Agitation can occur with brain and mental health disorders, such as:

Home Care

The most important way to deal with agitation is to find and treat the cause. Agitation may lead to an increased risk of suicide and other forms of violence.

After treating the cause, the following measures can reduce agitation:

DO NOT physically hold back an agitated person, if possible. This usually makes the problem worse. Use restraints only if the person is at risk of harming themselves or others, and there is no other way to control the behavior.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider for agitation that:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will take a medical history and do a physical examination. To better understand your agitation, your provider may ask you specific things about your agitation.

Tests may include:


Review Date: 2/21/2016
Reviewed By: Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.