We have seen that those who have suffered significant childhood trauma are at an increased risk of developing anxiety disorders in their adult lives. In extreme cases, this may lead to what is known as psychomotor agitation. I explain what is meant by this term below. However, I wish to start by recounting my own experience of this most distressing of psychological conditions.
For at least three years in total, off and on, I could not take a bath. The reason for this was that, when I was in this state (each episode could last several months) I was too agitated to do so – I couldn’t relax enough to lie down in the water, or even sit in it, any more so than I could voluntarily immerse myself in molten iron.
So I showered instead, right? Wrong. I felt too agitated to even indulge in this activity, even though most people find showering extremely relaxing and pleasurable.
Instead, I carried out my ablutions with a damp flannel; however, I confess that even this frequently proved to be a challenge I could not meet. Anti-social? Well, yes, if I saw anyone : but I didn’t. I was living as a virtual recluse.
Of course, for people who haven’t experienced severe agitated depression, it is extremely difficult to imagine how acutely distressing it is to have to endure such psychological torment on a constant and unremitting basis.
I couldn’t even sit back in an armchair; I was, quite literally, always on the ‘edge of my seat’ (so it seems the expression is not merely a metaphor).
In other words, I existed in a perpetual and unrelenting state of the most intense kind of agitation – permanently distracted and distraught. This led to a suicide attempt which left me in a coma in intensive care for five days, followed by hospitalizations and several courses of electro-convulsive shock therapy (ECT).
The name for this kind of profound, and highly distressing, restlessness is psychomotor agitation. I describe what is meant by this term below:
Symptoms Of Psychomotor Agitation:
– unintentional/ involuntary/ purposeless movement driven by an irresistible compulsion to do so, feelings of inner tension, restlessness, anxiety and intense mental anguish and distress. These involuntary movements may include:
– pacing around the room
– hand wringing
Psychomotor agitation is found particularly frequently in those with bipolar disorder, substance abusers and those with psychotic depression (to read about all the other types of depression, click here).
Doctors may treat the disorder pharmacologically (ie. with medication) but it also often treated non-pharmocologically by means other F therapies such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga and other relaxation techniques.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)