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Review Article

Recognizing, Managing and Treating Acute Agitation in Youths

[ Vol. 28 , Issue. 31 ]


Virginio Salvi, Laura Orsolini*, Lorenzo Maria Martino, Simone Pompili and Umberto Volpe   Pages 2554 - 2568 ( 15 )


Acute agitation is common in youths presenting to emergency departments, and, in some cases, may escalate into aggression and violence. Therefore, acute agitation in youths should be immediately and appropriately recognized and treated to avoid the consequences of its escalation. Agitation is widespread in youths, reported in around 7% of all youths admitted to emergency departments due to psychiatric reasons. Overall, the most frequent causes of youth acute agitation include the exacerbation of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD, autism, or intellectual disabilities, or the onset of mood and psychotic disorders. Substance abuse is also common in adolescents and young adults with acute agitation. Management of agitation should be individualized, multidisciplinary, and collaborative. Along with a diagnostic assessment, the needs of the young patients should be understood and addressed, and de-escalation strategies should be immediately prompted. Rapid recognition and management are warranted, in order to assure the safety of the patient and healthcare staff jeopardized by the acute crisis. Firstly, environmental and de-escalation strategies should be acted with the aim to reduce agitation and, if possible, avoid the use of physical restraint. In case these strategies fail to succeed, pharmacological treatment should be rapidly implemented. Although youth agitation and aggression is transdiagnostic, prior diagnosis of psychiatric disorder should guide the choice of the tranquilizing medication whenever possible. This review will examine these aspects in detail and provide guidance on how to recognize, manage, treat and resolve acute agitation in youths.


Adolescents, aggression, de-escalation, youth, agitation, treatment.


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