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What is Agitated Depression, Know its Causes and Treatment

What is Agitated Depression?

Agitated Depression which consists of depressive state along with psychomotor agitation is quite a common occurrence in various mood disorders. However, their classifications are not clear as of yet. Since there is a high incidence of agitated depression in people who are on various antidepressants, an extensive understanding of this condition is the need of the hour.

A study was conducted to identify whether agitated depression was a part of bipolar or unipolar disorders.[1] This was done by analyzing the association of agitated depression with various features of bipolar disorder like family history of bipolar disorders, onset at an early age, so on and so forth and also by analyzing its association with bipolar II disorder.  For this, around 150 people with known diagnosis of unipolar and 200 patients with bipolar II disorder were carefully studied. The study revealed that around 85 patients had agitated depression constituting for about 22% of people with unipolar disorder.  This data soared alarmingly to 80% in people with bipolar disorder.  This proved that agitated depression was associated more in people with bipolar disorder than those with unipolar disorder.[1]

However, researchers still felt that more studies needed to be conducted for a better understanding of the condition.  As of now, psychiatrists do not treat agitated depression as a separate entity and believe it to be a part of depression.  It is quite common in people with various mood disorders specifically bipolar disorders.  They have given depression occurring with agitation as a mixed episode of depression.  This article gives an overview of some of the causes of agitated depression and different ways to treat it.[1]

What Are The Causes Of Agitated Depression?

Before going into the causes of agitated depression, it is important to understand how this condition is different from bipolar disorder.  It is well known that an individual with bipolar disorder will have two extremes of emotional state of which one is a depressive state and the other one is mania.  However, mania cannot be defined as agitation since it is a state where the individual feels over the moon and is extremely elated.  He or she may not even sleep due to the hyperactive state he or she is in.  There may be instances where the individual may speak incessantly or talk out of turn or even argue.[2]

However, this cannot be classified as agitation.  Now, coming to the causes of agitated depression, agitation is something which is quite common for an individual with a mood disorder, especially depression. An individual will have depression if there is abnormality in the regulation of mood within the brain.  An individual can also end up having depression if there is a family history of this condition.  Stressful life events such as being in the war for long periods of time or going through an ugly divorce also increase the risk for an individual going into depression and have episodes of severe agitation.[2]

People with terminal diseases or chronic medical conditions which cause severe disabling pain also cause depression in these people. These factors may cause an individual to become agitated under some situations. It usually depends on the temperament of a person whether he or she will have episodes of agitation or not, especially in cases of depression.[2]

Treatment of Agitated Depression

Regarding treatment, there are numerous treatment approaches that psychiatrists take to treat agitated depression.  These include use of medications, mood stabilizers, and psychotherapy. Preferred medications for agitated depression include benzodiazepines.  This medication functions by making the mind calm and decrease the agitation and depressive episode on a temporary basis. The medication will be given in addition to the medications to treat depression. This will be done by prescribing a combination of medications which will always include an antidepressant.[2]

If this form of treatment is deemed ineffective, then the medication may be changed and a stronger medication will be prescribed for agitated depression.  Anxiolytics are also quite effective in treating depression.  It is also essential for an individual with agitated depression to go for regular counseling sessions.  The counselor will help the patient get to know about the various triggers that agitates the patient or makes him or her depressed.[2]

The counselor will then provide tips to the patient on how to overcome these feelings of agitation and depression.  Stress is a big factor in an individual getting agitated.  Some people with depression tend to lean towards alcohol for relieving stress.  This is not the way to handle it.  Relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation are all healthful and effective means of coping with stress related depression and agitation.[2]

There is no definitive cure or treatment for agitated depression.  It requires a concerted effort on the part of the patient as well as the treating physician along with treatments mentioned above to calm down the symptoms of agitated depression.  It may take several months for an individual to come back to normal once treatment starts for agitated depression.  In some cases, it has even taken years for the individual to get back to normal life.[2]

In conclusion, as of now there is no definite way to cure agitated depression.  However, there are a variety of treatment options available that can calm down the symptoms of depression and agitation and allow the patient to live a normal and happy life.  However, it takes a lot of time and patience on the part of the patient and the family to allow the treatment to kick in.[2]

A strong support system is always helpful to hasten the recovery process and get the patient back to normal.  In cases where the individual gets a severe episode of agitated depression where he or she feels suicidal then an emergent evaluation is necessary.  The patient will then be stabilized with medications and mood stabilizers to help him or her get over the episode and reduce the chances of harm to self and others as a result of agitated depression.[2]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 11, 2019

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