Agitated depression is a term used to describe the combined symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, it is not an official medical condition.
People who experience depression feel a sense of hopelessness, sadness, or despair. But some feel anxiety, frustration, and even anger. When someone experiences a combination of these feelings, it can be referred to as agitated depression. It can also be referred to as mixed depression.
Scientific studies done in the past have discovered that approximately one third of people who suffer from depression experienced some sort of agitation. This can occur in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well.
To be officially diagnosed with depression, a person will have to experience a loss of interest in their life, or low mood, for at least 14 days.
In addition, they would need to have 5 of the following symptoms:
- psychomotor agitation
- sleeping too much or too little
- restlessness or feeling like they’ve “slowed down”
- daily exhaustion or fatigue
- thoughts of death or suicide
- significant weight loss or weight gain
- lack of focus/concentration
- not being able to think clearly/”brain fog”
- feeling guilty or worthless
- feeling sadness, hopelessness, or irritability almost everyday
- lack of interest in daily life
If someone exhibits 5 symptoms out of these list, in a combination with general low mood, they could be diagnosed as having depression. Agitation, in addition to the symptoms mentioned above, can also be a byproduct of depression.
Let’s take a look at what behaviors may indicate someone suffering from agitation.
Someone suffering from agitation may display outbursts of angry or impulsive behavior. They can talk or move excessively, and they could have a hard time sitting still. This can also manifest itself as someone pacing or shuffling their feet. Constant wringing of the hands or clenching of the fists can be a sign of agitation as well.
The psychological symptoms of agitation include anxiety, irritability, or trouble focusing.
Any of these symptoms can appear abruptly or over a long period of time. Each symptom can also range anywhere from mild to severe. These symptoms can be dangerous, because the risk of impulsive, aggressive behavior may cause someone to do harm to another person.
These symptoms of agitated depression, if left untreated, will start to occur more frequently. As the symptoms start to manifest themselves more regularly, a person’s relationships, work/school life, and overall health could become affected.
What Causes Agitated Depression?
Agitated depression can’t be linked to one direct cause. Causes of the disorder can be biological, environmental, or psychological. In some cases, something as simple as being in a new environment can cause someone agitation.
The one thing that is certain, however, is that abuse of alcohol or any other substances can will make agitation worse.
Agitation can even be brought on by other medical conditions. Sepsis, electrolyte imbalance, toxins, dementia, and hormone issues can all cause to agitated depression. Medical professionals, family, friends, and even the person themselves often don’t know why the feelings of agitation occurred exactly.
Agitated depression can be a symptom of many other mental disorders. Which is why it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint. Here are how it can manifest in other disorders.
- Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder can manifest in many ways. The most well-known symptoms are severe swings in mood. But agitated depression can also accompany this disorder. Since the mood of someone suffering from bipolar disorder is always fluctuating, it’s possible to get periods of mixed emotions. In this state of mixed feelings, people can experience agitated depression, and they can also experience something called hypomania. This isn’t quite a manic episode, but the sufferer reports being in a “higher mood”.
- Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is most often associated with “split personalities”. However, there are many more symptoms to the disorder than that. People suffering from schizophrenia experience disorganized thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, and agitated movements. The constant state of unorganized thoughts and feelings can occasionally bring on periods of agitated depression.
Clinical Treatment Options
There are a wide range of approaches medical professionals can use to help with agitated depression. A doctor may prescribe sedative medications such as midazolam, a benzodiazepine, and olanzapine, an antipsychotic drug.
Antidepressant medications can also be used to treat agitated depression. These types of medications may take some time to work. In certain cases, they can take 2-4 weeks to start working and a person may need to continue taking them for up to a year.
If one particular medication isn’t working, a medical professional may substitute it for another one. They may even add additional medications to treat other symptoms. These may include mood stabilizers or anti-anxiety medications. Every person’s symptoms are different and require different medications.
These medications can provide temporary relief, but they should also be paired with more long-term treatment methods.
Working with a counselor who is well-qualified and experienced is an essential part of any long-term treatment plan. The right counselor can help you to identify triggers that may be the root cause of episodes of agitated depression. Patients will even learn how to cope with these feelings in a more healthy way during these counseling sessions.
Things You Can Do
In addition to medication and counseling, there are some things people can do on their own to combat agitated depression. If you start to get feelings of agitated depression, get some air. Getting outside and going for a walk can do wonders for our mood and well-being.
Having someone to listen to you can also help to defuse the situation. If you start to feel heightened feelings of agitation or depression, try talking to a trusted friend or family member about it.
Generally taking care of yourself will help to strengthen any mental health treatment. Paying attention to any feelings of discomfort, like thirst or hunger, will help to keep agitation at bay. You can also employ the use of relaxation techniques like breathing, meditation, or yoga. And, as always, exercising regularly and watching your diet will only help to strengthen your treatment plan.
As of now, there is no definitive cure for agitated depression. Taking care of yourself, minimizing triggers, and talking about your feelings are the best methods to minimizing the effects.