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:
A calm environment
Enough lighting during the day and darkness at night
Medications such as benzodiazepines, and in some cases, antipsychotics
Plenty of sleep
Do not physically hold back an agitated person, if possible. This usually makes the problem worse. Only use restraints 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 health care provider for agitation that:
Lasts a long time
Is very severe
Occurs with thoughts or actions of hurting oneself or others
Occurs with other, unexplained symptoms
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your health care provider will take a medical history and do a physical examination. To better understand your agitation, your health care provider may ask about things about your agitation.
Tests may include:
Blood studies (such as a blood count, infection screening, thyroid tests, or vitamin levels)
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va:
American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
Inouye SK. Delirium or acute mental status change in the older patient. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 27.
Park JM, Park L, Prager LM. Emergency psychiatry. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 87.
Rossi J, Swan MC, Isaacs ED. The violent or agitated patient. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2010;28:235-256.
Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.