Agitation is a feeling of aggravation, annoyance, restlessness, or nervousness. It can be brought on by actions, words, events, or in some cases, for no known reason.
It’s normal to feel agitated from time to time — for instance, in response to stress from work or school — but it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical or mental health condition.
If you regularly experience agitation for no known reason, talk with your doctor. They can help figure out the cause and treatments available to you.
Agitation is a normal emotion experienced by most people. In the majority of cases, there’s no need for worry or concern.
Common causes of agitation can include:
Medical conditions that can cause agitation include:
- anxiety or mood disorders, like depression or bipolar disorder
- conditions that cause hormonal imbalances, like hypothyroidism
- alcohol dependency or withdrawal
- neurological disorders (in rare cases, brain tumors)
If you regularly feel agitated for no apparent reason, make an appointment with your doctor. An underlying mental or physical health condition may be negatively affecting your mood. Your doctor can help identify the cause of your agitation and, if needed, prescribe treatment.
To identify the underlying cause of your agitation, your doctor will likely start by asking you questions about your medical history and lifestyle, along with other symptoms you may be experiencing.
If they suspect that you have an underlying mental health condition, they may refer you to a mental health specialist for evaluation.
If they think that you have an underlying physical condition, they may conduct one or more diagnostic tests.
For example, they may:
- collect a sample of your blood to check for hormonal imbalances
- collect a sample of your urine or spinal fluid to check for abnormalities
In some cases, they may order a CT scan or MRI scan of your brain.
Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on what’s causing your agitation.
To relieve agitation caused by stress, your doctor might recommend a variety of relaxation techniques, including:
Deep breathing and meditation can help restore your sense of calm. Exercising and participating in activities you enjoy can also reduce stress.
Your doctor may also refer you to a psychotherapist if these techniques fail to provide you with relief. If you don’t already have a psychotherapist, our Healthline FindCare tool can help you connect to one in your area.
You should take steps to identify and limit your contact with things that cause you stress as well. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by your workload, discuss it with your supervisor or teacher.
Mental health conditions
If you’re diagnosed with an anxiety or a mood disorder, your doctor may recommend medications, talk therapy, or a combination of both to treat it.
During a typical therapy session, you’ll talk about your symptoms and develop strategies to cope with them.
If you’re diagnosed with a condition that affects your hormones, your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy or other medications to treat it. They may also refer you to a hormone specialist, known as an endocrinologist.
If you’re diagnosed with a brain tumor, your recommended treatment plan will depend on its type, size, and location.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy to shrink it. If it can be removed safely with surgery, they may refer you to a surgeon to perform the procedure. If it’s too difficult or dangerous to remove, your doctor may simply choose to monitor the growth for changes.
Your outlook will depend on the underlying cause of your agitation and the steps you take to treat it.
In many cases, taking steps to reduce stress can relieve agitation. In others cases, you may need to take medication or have other treatments on a temporary or ongoing basis.
Ask your doctor for more information about your specific condition, treatment options, and long-term outlook.