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Psychomotor Agitation and its Effective Treatment Strategies

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Written by Kshithij karan

People with various types of mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder, struggle with psychomotor agitation, which causes them high levels of distress. With improved research and upgraded practices, it is possible to treat this and possibly prevent its onset. Read to learn more about this intense symptom. 

What is Psychomotor Agitation?

Agitation generally refers to when someone feels troubled, nervous, anxious, or a mix of all these things. Psychomotor agitation is an extension of this, characterized by heightened restlessness and impulsivity. It is a kind of inner tension that causes your physical and mental activities to shoot up, causing distress. This is a common symptom of a host of mental health conditions and affects your ability to conduct everyday functions with relative ease. 

Relationship to Mental Health

Psychomotor agitation is normally associated with mood disorders but is also linked to anxiety disorders and psychotic conditions. The nature of the severity of the agitation is thus strongly linked to the exact underlying mental health condition. As a result, professionals first diagnose and understand the mental well-being of the individual before devising anti-agitation strategies. 

Psychomotor Agitation in Various Disorders

The way psychomotor agitation manifests depends entirely on the type of mental health disorder as well as the intensity of it. People can also experience it in very different manners based on their familial, professional, interpersonal, or cultural interactions and relationships. Some common disorders that lead to this symptom include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and more. 

Symptoms and Identification of Psychomotor Agitation

Since the symptoms of psychomotor agitation can be dynamic and depend on multiple factors, it can be tricky to identify. Some of these agitative traits can also be found in non-PMA-based symptoms. That said, experts highlight some traits and behaviors that are most directly linked to this symptom for better identification. 

Common Symptoms and Behaviors of Psychomotor Agitation

Mental healthcare professionals normally distinguish behaviors associated with PMA from the functional, behavioral, and cognitive lenses. These unique manifestations of the symptom allow experts to accurately analyze the intensity of the symptom and the underlying conditions that caused it. 

Behavioral Symptoms of Psychomotor Agitation

The major behavioral symptom of PMA is restlessness. This means that a person finds it difficult to stay still, is often found pacing, and is prone to impulsive actions. This phenomenon becomes particularly evident when individuals attempt to focus on activities demanding concentration, such as reading, writing, engaging in competitive games, meditation, and similar pursuits. 

Cognitive Symptoms of Psychomotor Agitation

These symptoms hinder a person’s thought process, impairing their decision-making and reasoning. People with PMA may have racing thoughts, which makes them irritable in the long run. Being unable to concentrate and keep track of their own thoughts makes them increasingly stressed.

Functional symptoms of Psychomotor Agitation

The inability to focus, coupled with increased impulsivity and irritability, makes it very difficult for those with PMA to complete tasks. These could be professional tasks or relate to personal or familial responsibilities. Navigating their agitation may lead to them losing track of their role in relationships, which further compounds their mental distress. 

Diagnostic Criteria and Assessment of Psychomotor Agitation

The diagnostic criteria for this symptom can vary, but a professional look at the following factors: 

  • Level of Increase in physical and psychomotor activity 
  • Level of impairment in focus
  • Frequency and intensity of restlessness and irritability
  • Underlying mental health or medical conditions
  • Time frame of said symptoms being expressed
  • Medical and substance use history of the individual

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Causes and Risk Factors of Psychomotor Agitation

Psychomotor agitation can manifest in various situations and may stem from underlying mental health disorders, substance abuse, degenerative conditions, and other contributing factors. Experts look to identify the root cause of these symptoms to treat an individual struggling to cope with them and design targeted treatment plans. 

Causes of Psychomotor Agitation

While psychiatric conditions are some of the most common causes of PMA, it is often caused by a combination of varying factors. Thus, understanding the exact ways through which these factors impact how people experience PMA is crucial for treatment. 

Psychiatric Conditions

When it comes to psychiatric conditions, PMA is most commonly linked with mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression. That said, it is also seen with schizophrenia, personality disorders, panic disorder, Parkinson’s disease, as well as other anxiety disorders and psychotic conditions.

Substance Use

Usage of stimulant or hallucinogenic drugs is shown to be one of the significant contributors of PMA. Substance use adds a different dimension to the way experts approach treatment. Therefore, it is critical to be open about one’s substance use history and patterns to treat the eventual agitative symptoms. 

Degenerative Brain Disorders

Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and dementia can also lead to psychomotor agitation. Since this involves both a medical and mental health angle, degenerative brain disorders require a multidisciplinary approach. Medical professionals and psychiatric interventions usually combine to address agitation among patients. 

Antipsychotic Medications

Antipsychotics or similar medications can, in some cases, induce psychomotor agitation as a side effect. Since these medications work by influencing neurotransmitters such as dopamine in the brain, agitation has been observed as a knock-on effect. This is rare, but prolonged agitation is worth checking with a professional in order to adopt different types of medications. 

Risk Factors of Psychomotor Agitation

Some of the common risk factors include

  • Mental Health Conditions
  • Medication Side Effects
  • Substance Use
  • Medical Conditions
  • Neurological Disorders
  • Genetic Factors
  • Stress and Trauma

What‘s the link Between Bipolar Disorder and Psychomotor Agitation? 

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that is characterized by extreme mood swings. During manic phases, in particular, individuals are seen to experience psychomotor agitation. Restlessness and irritability are common among those with bipolar disorder, with sudden bursts of energy. Experts analyze the complex interplay between the underlying condition and its agitative symptoms to arrive at the right treatment methods and plans.

Managing and Treating Psychomotor Agitation

Since psychomotor agitation is normally a result of underlying mental health complications, effective management of its symptoms requires a comprehensive approach. A combination of therapy, medication, coping strategies, and lifestyle adjustments are key to managing PMA. 

Medical Interventions

When it comes to medical interventions, psychiatrists usually prescribe either medications for targeted behavioral and cognitive symptoms or for directly addressing the underlying psychiatric conditions. However, the type of medicines they recommend changes over time after paying close attention to the patient’s progress in order to optimize recovery. 

Coping Strategies and Lifestyle Modifications

Some common coping strategies that are relatively easy to implement include relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness. It is critical to bring order and organization to everyday life. Stability can contribute to reduced irritability. Lifestyle modifications like regular exercise and sleep will greatly improve overall well-being. 

Living with Psychomotor Agitation

Living with psychomotor agitation poses challenges that, with the right support from professionals and loved ones, combined with the right strategies, individuals can overcome in the long run. Sharing your experiences with professionals and following their advice while maintaining a supportive network is key. 

Personal Experiences and Challenges

Every person experiences PMA differently. Therefore, it is essential to share your unique struggles and feelings with those around you as well as your therapist to not just receive proper support and insight but to reduce the stigma around mental health and facilitate holistic treatment. 

Support Systems and Resources

Build a robust support system: Include friends, family, or other individuals whom you trust and share a positive bond with through your recovery process. 

Collaborate with mental health experts: Continued guidance, therapy sessions, and medication management are key to addressing symptoms of PMA. 

Access to resources and supportive organizations: Conversations around mental health are not common owing to social stigma, so ensuring that you have the latest, science-backed information and resources will make a huge difference. 

Empower Yourself for Mental Well-being with Cadabams

Psychomotor agitation is a specific that adapts to the mental health condition that a person faces and poses challenges unique to their environment and personal pressures. The mental healthcare experts at Cadabams undergo training to recognize the specific issues arising from this symptom. They establish a secure and inviting environment for individuals to share their experiences and commence their journey towards recovery. If you or your loved one is looking to treat psychomotor agitation, give our experts a call today. 

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Rehabilitation Centre can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their Psychomotor Agitation. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949.

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1. How do you treat psychomotor agitation?

Treatment for psychomotor agitation often involves addressing the underlying cause. This may include the use of medications such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, or benzodiazepines for immediate relief. Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can also be effective. In some cases, lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and supportive care are recommended to help manage symptoms.

2. What triggers psychomotor agitation?

Psychomotor agitation can be triggered by a variety of factors, including psychiatric disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. Substance abuse, withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, and certain medications can also lead to agitation. Stressful life events, lack of sleep, and other medical conditions may further exacerbate or trigger symptoms.

3. What is psychomotor agitation behavior?

Psychomotor agitation behavior encompasses a sequence of involuntary and aimless movements triggered by mental tension and anxiety. This can include pacing, tapping the feet, uncontrolled gesturing, pulling at clothes, or an inability to sit still. These behaviors are often a physical manifestation of inner restlessness or distress.

4. What are the characteristics of psychomotor agitation?

Characteristics of psychomotor agitation include excessive, non-goal-oriented movements, such as fidgeting, pacing, wringing of hands, and rapid talking. Individuals may appear visibly restless or anxious, and these behaviors are often a response to internal tension. It can disrupt daily activities and interpersonal interactions, signaling underlying psychiatric or medical issues.

5. Can psychomotor retardation be cured?

Psychomotor retardation, characterized by decreased thinking speed and diminished physical activity, frequently manifests as a symptom of psychiatric conditions like major depressive disorder. While it may not be "cured" in the traditional sense, effective management of the underlying condition can significantly reduce or eliminate symptoms. Treatment may include medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle adjustments to improve overall mental health.

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