Agitated Depression

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Agitated Depression

Depression can cause irritability. Sometimes, a person with depression may have irritability be their most prominent symptom. This causes them to suffer from what is referred to as agitated depression.

Agitated depression is not a clinical diagnosis. It is a term that is used to refer to people who feel irritable, restless, angry and agitated when feeling depressed. When a person suffers from agitated depression, they may engage in behaviors like:

  • Lashing out at others
  • Being impatient
  • Openly expressing anger
  • Having fits or rage for relatively innocuous incidents

Agitated depression is fairly common, although it does not fit the textbook definition of depression. A person with agitated depression will not be fatigued or feel like they are “in a fog”. They will be short-tempered and have a low tolerance for being agitated.

Agitated depression is often misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder or intermittent explosive disorder. This is because of the behavioral patterns of agitated depression do not fit the mold for traditional depression.

Symptoms of Agitated Depression

Symptoms of agitated depression will look different than the typical symptoms of depression. A person with agitated depression will suffer from a difficulty to cope with anxious and depressed energy. This difficulty to cope causes irritability.

Agitated depression causes hypersensitivity to stimulation and high reactivity. A person with agitated depression may exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Reactivity, or having a “short fuse”
  • Snapping at friends and family
  • A short temper and high irritability
  • Acts of anger and rage
  • Racing negative and (sometimes) violent thoughts
  • Discomfort with keeping still
  • Excessive complaining, yelling or criticizing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Picking at skin, hair, clothes, or nails
  • Extreme difficulty or inability to cope with stress
  • Difficulty understanding the source of anger

Causes of Agitated Depression

A person suffers from agitated depression when they do not know how to cope with the causes of their depressed mood. Some people learned to cope with depression through agitated behaviors from an older family member. Others suffer from agitated depression because of other pre-existing mental health conditions, like:

There is a key identifier for agitated depression. It is displaying outbursts of anger as a result of the frustration of not being able to cope with a depressed mood.

Treatment for Agitated Depression

Treatment for agitated depression is much like treatment for clinical depression. It will incorporate a combination of therapy and stress relief exercises to help the affected person learn how to cope. In some situations, medication may also be recommended in conjunction with therapy.

Therapeutic techniques that are utilized in therapy for agitated depression include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps you learn how your  behaviors are a manifestation of your depressed mood and negative thoughts. It also teaches you how to manage thoughts and feelings to prevent outbursts.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT teaches you how your emotions affect your thought processes and decision making skills. It also teaches mindfulness skills to use when feeling anxious, stressed or irritable as a result of the depressed mood.
  • Talk therapy. Talk therapy teaches perspective. Perspective helps you to learn about the reason behind your depressed mood. It also helps your learn how agitated depression is affecting you and your relationships with others.

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