How Agitated Depression Is Different From Typical Depression

There are many different forms of clinical depression, including agitated depression. Though the names and some of the symptoms may appear similar, it is important to distinguish between major depression, agitated depression and other clinical disorders because their treatments vary significantly.

What Does Typical Depression Look Like?

Depression is an exceedingly common condition that causes depressed mood, feelings of helplessness, fatigue, sleep disturbance and even suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Individuals who suffer from typical major depression are consistently down in their mood and affect. They often appear to have no energy and report feeling empty without knowing why. These symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, but they often last much longer. Treatment for major depressive disorder involves cognitive behavioral therapy and, in many cases, antidepressant medication.

What Does Agitated Depression Look Like?

While similar to major depression, agitated depression presents unique challenges. Agitated depression has been confused with other depressive conditions, including “mixed” depression and “unipolar” depression. People who suffer from agitated depression will experience the same collection of symptoms as major depression, but they will also experience symptoms similar to hypomania or mania. These symptoms may include:

  • Increased energy
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Rapid speech or a need to talk constantly
  • Anxiety
  • Pacing
  • Fidgeting
  • Emotional outbursts or shouting

In people with agitated depression, these symptoms do not last long enough or are not severe enough to qualify for a diagnosis of mania, hypomania or bipolar disorder. Also, individuals with agitated depression may be more likely to think about or attempt suicide.

What Treatment Is Available for Agitated Depression?

Researchers are still looking for consistent treatment options for individuals with agitated depression. Because it can be difficult to distinguish agitated depression from other mood disorders, psychiatrists may be reluctant to prescribe medication. For example, if an individual who suffers from bipolar disorder takes antidepressants, the medications could send the patient into a manic episode, which could result in serious psychological and physical harm.

A 2008 study found that treating agitated depression with a combination of antidepressants and quetiapine, an antipsychotic often used to treat schizophrenia, was more effective than treatment with antidepressants alone. Research is ongoing to determine the best course of pharmacological treatment for patients with agitated depression.

If you believe you or someone you care about might be suffering from agitated depression, consult with a mental health professional right away. Other treatment options for depression such as cognitive behavioral therapy can help you cope with the challenges of agitated depression.

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