Agitation is an unpleasant state of extreme arousal. An agitated person may feel stirred up, excited, tense, confused, or irritable. Agitation can come on suddenly or over time. It can last for a few minutes, for weeks, or even months. Pain, stress, and fever can all increase agitation. Agitation by itself may not be a sign of a health problem. But if other symptoms occur, it can be a sign of disease. Agitated, aggressive, frustrated, angry, stubborn, restless – adjectives that are often used interchangeably to illustrate comparable clinical presentations, but words that can bear very different meanings to different people. It is well documented in the literature that individuals with cognitive disorders regularly suffer from a plethora of neuropsychiatric sequelae during their illness course. Syndromes such as depression, anxiety, and agitation are common, and agitation is frequently considered the most disruptive as it is often associated with increased rates of institutionalization. Specific diagnostic criteria for depression and anxiety in certain cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease have been outlined in the literature. However, agitation remains an ambiguously defined term that is often muddled by the individual’s, caretakers, or provider’s interpretation of the clinical manifestations. Creating a standardized, validated diagnostic definition of agitation in individuals with cognitive disorders could prove beneficial to clinical and research environments seeking to advance treatment options, as well as, facilitate accurate communication among clinicians and patients and their support.

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