Agitation ICD-10: Understanding and Managing Symptoms

Agitation is a common symptom observed in various medical conditions and can significantly impact a person’s daily life. In this article, we will explore the concept of agitation, its relevance in the context of the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), and effective strategies to manage agitation. Whether you are a healthcare professional or an individual seeking information, this comprehensive guide will provide you with valuable insights.

Defining Agitation

Agitation refers to a state of restlessness, anxiety, or excessive excitement. It is characterized by heightened motor activity, irritability, and a sense of inner tension. Agitation can manifest in various ways, such as pacing, fidgeting, aggression, or verbal outbursts. Individuals experiencing agitation often find it challenging to relax and may have difficulty concentrating or engaging in day-to-day activities.

Understanding the Causes

Agitation can be triggered by a wide range of factors, including medical conditions, environmental stimuli, or psychological distress. It commonly occurs in psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depressive disorder. Neurological conditions such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, or Parkinson’s disease can also contribute to agitation. Additionally, substance withdrawal, including alcohol or drug withdrawal, can cause severe agitation symptoms.

Agitation in the ICD-10

The International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), provides a standardized framework for classifying medical conditions. While agitation itself is not a specific diagnostic term in the ICD-10, it falls under various categories depending on the underlying condition causing it.

ICD-10 Codes for Agitation

Agitation can be coded under different categories in the ICD-10, depending on the associated diagnosis. Some relevant codes include:

  • F23.0 Acute polymorphic psychotic disorder without symptoms of schizophrenia
  • F06.3 Organic mood [affective] disorder
  • F06.4 Organic anxiety disorder
  • F10.27 Alcohol withdrawal delirium
  • F19.27 Other psychoactive substance withdrawal delirium

It is essential for healthcare professionals to accurately identify and code the underlying condition causing agitation to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Recognizing Agitation

Agitation presents with a variety of symptoms that may vary depending on the individual and underlying cause. Common signs of agitation include:

  • Restlessness and pacing
  • Increased irritability
  • Verbal or physical aggression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns
  • Heightened motor activity

Diagnostic Criteria

To diagnose agitation, healthcare professionals assess the presence and severity of symptoms, medical history, and perform a thorough physical and psychological evaluation. The diagnostic process involves ruling out other potential causes and identifying any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to agitation.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Agitation can be a symptom of various medical conditions. Understanding these conditions can aid in effective management and treatment. Some key underlying conditions associated with agitation include:

Psychiatric Disorders

Psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are known to manifest with agitation as a prominent symptom. Treating the underlying psychiatric condition often helps alleviate agitation symptoms.

Neurological Disorders

Neurological conditions, including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease, can lead to agitation. Agitation in these conditions may arise due to changes in brain function, medication side effects, or environmental factors.

Substance Withdrawal

Withdrawal from alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, or other substances can induce severe agitation as part of the withdrawal syndrome. Professional medical assistance is crucial in managing withdrawal-related agitation safely.

Managing Agitation

Effectively managing agitation involves a combination of non-pharmacological and pharmacological approaches tailored to the individual’s needs and underlying condition.

Non-Pharmacological Approaches

Non-pharmacological interventions aim to create a calming environment and reduce agitation triggers. These approaches may include:

  • Establishing a predictable routine
  • Providing a safe and comfortable space
  • Engaging in soothing activities (e.g., listening to calming music)
  • Encouraging relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing exercises)

Pharmacological Interventions

In some cases, pharmacological interventions may be necessary to manage severe agitation or when non-pharmacological approaches are insufficient. Medications such as antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, or sedatives may be prescribed under medical supervision to alleviate agitation symptoms. It is crucial to carefully consider the benefits, potential side effects, and individual factors before initiating medication.

Strategies for Caregivers and Loved Ones

Supporting individuals experiencing agitation requires empathy, understanding, and effective communication. Consider the following strategies:

Creating a Calm Environment

  • Minimize noise and distractions
  • Ensure adequate lighting
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature
  • Use soothing colors and decor

Effective Communication

  • Speak calmly and clearly
  • Use simple language and short sentences
  • Listen actively and respond empathetically
  • Offer reassurance and validation

Self-Care for Caregivers

Caring for someone with agitation can be challenging. Remember to prioritize your own well-being by seeking support from healthcare professionals, joining support groups, and practicing self-care activities that help manage stress.

Agitation Prevention

Preventing agitation involves identifying triggers and implementing strategies to minimize their impact. Consider the following approaches:

Identifying Triggers

  • Observe and record situations that precede agitation episodes
  • Recognize patterns and common triggers
  • Modify the environment to avoid triggers when possible

Routine and Structure

  • Establish a consistent daily routine
  • Provide structured activities and engagement
  • Offer familiar and enjoyable experiences


Agitation, a distressing symptom observed in various medical conditions, can significantly impact individuals’ well-being. Understanding the causes, diagnosis, and management strategies for agitation is crucial for healthcare professionals and individuals seeking support. By implementing a combination of non-pharmacological approaches, pharmacological interventions when necessary, and employing effective communication strategies, it is possible to alleviate agitation symptoms and improve the overall quality of life for individuals experiencing agitation.

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