Agitated Depression And Irritability: How They Are Connected

Published on November 20th, 2018

Updated on January 2nd, 2024

Agitated Depression And Irritability: How They Are Connected

When we hear depression, we think of someone who cannot stop crying, cannot get out of bed, or is feeling hopeless. While these can be ways that a person shows their depressed mood, depression can be felt in other ways. We can feel depressed sometimes without realizing it.

Not all people feel their depression through sadness, hopelessness, and despair. They may instead feel their depression through anxiety, stress, anger, and irritability.

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

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Agitated depression is not a clinical diagnosis. It is a term that is used to refer to people who feel the following ways when depressed:  

When a person suffers from agitated depression, they may engage in behaviors that are not good for them. These behaviors can make their mood worse and impact their quality of life. Such behaviors that may be caused by agitated depression include:

Agitated depression is not uncommon. It is different than typical depression. A person with agitated depression may not be fatigued or feel like they are “in a fog”. They will be short-tempered and have a low tolerance for being bothered. They may also be hyper-alert and struggle to calm racing thoughts.

Agitated depression is often misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder or intermittent explosive disorder. The irritability, anger, and bursts of rage that can occur with agitated depression are similar to the symptoms of these disorders. Agitated depression can be tricky to identify, but can be treated and managed if properly diagnosed.

Symptoms of Agitated Depression

Symptoms of agitated depression will look different than the typical symptoms of depression. A person with agitated depression will struggle to cope with anxiety and changing levels of energy. This difficulty to cope causes irritability. They may also struggle with ruminating thoughts. Ruminating thoughts are persistent and recurring thoughts that keep a person’s mind in a dark place. This dark place may often be consumed with: 

Agitated depression causes hypersensitivity to stimulation. It also causes high reactivity. Along with typical symptoms of depression, a person with agitated depression may also exhibit any of the following symptoms:

Causes of Agitated Depression

A person suffers from agitated depression when they do not know how to cope with their mood. They may not understand what causes their irritability and depression. A person with agitated depression may not understand their feelings or how to recover from their depressed mood. They may feel like a prisoner to their anger and depression.

Some people with agitated depression learned to use aggression to cope from a family member. They may have also learned that expressing any negative emotions besides anger is unacceptable. This results in a person not knowing how to express their depression and emotional pain in a healthy way. 

People with agitated depression may suffer from other mental health disorders, like:

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

Treatment for Agitated Depression

Treatment for agitated depression is much like treatment for clinical depression. It will include therapy methods that teach coping skills. These coping skills will help the affected person learn how to control their anger, anxiety, and depression. Therapy for agitated depression may also incorporate anger management skills. In some situations, medication may be recommended.

Therapeutic techniques used for agitated depression include:

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