Restlessness - cause, symptoms and therapy

Restlessness - cause, symptoms and therapy

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Restlessness - driven and depressed

The hands tremble, sweat breaks out, the muscles twitch, and the eyes twinkle. We can and cannot concentrate and the heart is racing. Everybody knows restlessness, nervousness and inner restlessness - occasionally.

But if this condition becomes chronic, our quality of life suffers massively. Physical illnesses, mental problems and occupational overload can be the cause.

Restless people are constantly under power; No matter what you do, it always seems too little. The inner pressure does not make them handle tasks better - on the contrary, they lose their balance with the slightest trigger. They are easily irritable, resulting in emotional outbursts.

Some do not openly show this emotional chaos. Those affected then invest enormous amounts of energy to hide their unrest. As a result, they protect the facade externally, but cement their complaints because they do not accept help.

Most nervous can be recognized: They speak quickly and in a higher voice than usual, they can not keep their hands still, look around, shake or run their fingers through their hair, smoke chains and breathe quickly.

Inner harmlessness can be easily controlled with harmless triggers. It often arises from the fact that those affected neglect simple actions that have brought them to rest.

Above all, this includes enough sleep and exercise in the fresh air. Insomnia is an important cause of restlessness. If you are suffering from an organic illness or serious psychological complaints, you should contact a doctor immediately.

Body, psyche, environment

However, inner restlessness combined with too little sleep is very often an expression of working conditions. Those who have to work longer and more and work harder and earn less and less, are trying to shorten their natural sleep, be it with coffee or even cocaine, which means that, in addition to the lack of sleep, cause nervousness.

Mental illnesses are also associated with restlessness, especially anxiety disorders, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Anxiety sufferers not only get into trouble in the triggering situation, but already when they only think of them. Just the thought of cats in a person who has a cat phobia, the thought of an exam in a person with exam anxiety, triggers the inner unrest. Those affected internally tense up until they experience physical discomfort or even panic attacks. They blush, they feel sick, they tremble, and their hearts race.

Restlessness can also have an organic background: Hypoglycemia and an overactive thyroid are the usual suspects - as well as high blood pressure.

You should definitely go to the doctor if you are always nervous without knowing an external trigger and suffering from other complaints: stomach and back pain, diarrhea, disorders of the heart rhythm or depression and anxiety.

The environment

Restlessness is often due to the social environment. Whoever is exposed to constant stress, be it in the family or through work pressure, who is constantly chasing appointments, who always wants to meet the more outrageous demands of his fellow human beings, who is flooded with stimuli in the flood of virtual offers, or who are burdened with life issues - will become almost automatic restless.

The brain can only process a certain amount of stimuli, requirements and performance - if the limits of this workload are exceeded, it switches to stress mode.

Own behavior

Not only the environmental stimuli themselves are the problem, but also the reaction to them. Whoever wants to be perfect, which is impossible, is subject to permanent pressure. It is driven internally. He does not come to rest because he makes demands on himself that he cannot meet.

People who literally "do not rest in themselves" are too sensitive to criticism from others. They try to distinguish themselves in the outside world, but always feel insecure because they are dissatisfied with themselves. Since their self-image is fragile, they do not come to rest.

Even those who cannot switch off will eventually become restless. To say "now is the end of the day", the smartphone stays away and the mails are no longer opened today, this bottom line is difficult for many. There is no peace of mind if we ponder bed problems in the evening or if we are still upset about the cyclist who took the right of way two hours later.

Not only how long someone gets upset, but also about what leads to inner unrest. The neighbor doesn't clean his stairs, there's a plastic bag on the sidewalk, there's a brown border in the coffee cup? If you get overwhelmed with such little things, you can be sure that you will never calm down.

Internal unrest and the consequences

When we tense up, the body relaxes afterwards. We breathe calmly, the heart rate drops, the circulation calms down. Those who constantly suffer from inner restlessness suffer damage: germs can penetrate more easily, the immune system does less.

Mental disorders not only trigger inner restlessness, restlessness can also trigger these disorders: Chronic nervousness can slip into clinical depression.

Causes of restlessness

The causes of restlessness are varied. This includes:

1) Hypoglycaemia: If the body gets too little sugar, this manifests itself in cravings, sweating, tremors, rapid heartbeat and inner restlessness.

2) Low blood pressure also leads to restlessness. In such cases, this is accompanied by dizziness, sleep problems, exhaustion, headache, tinnitus, depression, cold limbs and the inability to concentrate. But high blood pressure also leads to considerable restlessness.

3) An overactive thyroid is manifested by diarrhea, weight loss, trembling fingers, irregular heartbeat and insomnia. Those affected are chronically nervous.

4) Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, alone or together, lead to nervous behavior. In general, the more coffee and Red Bull we eat, the more cigarettes we smoke or the more schnapps we drink, the more restless we become.

5) Anxiety is a key symptom of Attention Deficit Disorder.

6) Personality disorders generally indicate inner restlessness, combined with addiction problems, massive fears, negative moods that also fluctuate, and tiredness.

The nervousness of bipolar patients is clearly visible when they are in a manic phase: These people then run around restlessly, roll over in their urge to speak without finishing a thought, they are constantly on the run, do not sleep for days - they do not come to rest.

People with an unstable disorder become restless internally when their moods change - this happens very often, which is why they are constantly in an "attention" mode.

Being restless is also an expression of clinical depression, in addition there is hopelessness, pressure on the chest, apathy, the inability to feel joy, lack of drive and a generally depressed mood.

Schizophrenics suffer from severe tension, they cannot concentrate, they are sensitive to noise, light and noise - and they cannot calm down internally.

7) pulmonary embolism. If a pulmonary artery becomes blocked, whether due to a clot of blood, foreign bodies or air, this leads to pain in addition to breathing, coughing and anxiety, cold sweat and rapid heartbeat.

8) Alcoholics know negative moods as well as unfounded fears. Internal restlessness is firstly a permanent condition for alcoholics, but excessive nervousness is secondly a withdrawal symptom if you want to get rid of the addiction.

9) Many drugs lead to restlessness. These include hallucinogens such as LSD, thorn apple, fly agaric or psylocibine and mescaline, but also cannabis.

10) What applies to illegal drugs also applies to legal drugs. Nervousness is a side effect of amantadine, theophylline and bupropion, as well as a withdrawal symptom in benzodiazepines.

11) A sunstroke also leads to restlessness, combined with chills and dizziness. This also applies to burns.


1) If you have a serious illness, contact a doctor. Even then, your own actions will help to reduce the unrest.

2) First keep a diary of when nervousness breaks out. Do you work too much? Then provide relief if it is possible. Tell employees about your problem, the partner, relatives and friends.

3) Analyze what is causing the excess work. Does your boss put you under pressure or you put yourself under pressure? Are you trying to have your “fingers inside” in all areas? Then the task is to trust and let others do the things that you don't necessarily have to do that others can do better.

4) Does your boss want quick results? Or you yourself? Then sit back. Relax. Stress does not produce good results. They need time to put their thoughts in order. This even benefits the work.

5) Keep your distance from people who panic you. If you are too nervous yourself, you do not need “drama kings” in your close surroundings to fuel this unrest.

6) Decide and honor the alternatives to that decision. The advertising industry provides us with suggestions around the clock about what we need, have and what we need to achieve. With every decision for something, we therefore have the feeling of missing something. But we lack the peace to enjoy the moment.

7) Do you suffer from tight deadlines? Then create a list of essential, important and unnecessary appointments. This looks difficult at first, especially if you are too committed or distract yourself from your work.

Does the oriental dance class really have to be, even though you don't like the leader? Do you have to bring your children to school in the morning if they could also take the bus? If such activity is stressful for them, let them stay.

8) Are you restless because you keep getting tangled up in everyday life? Then write down a daily schedule. Write down exactly which tasks you need for how long and when you can do them. It is no coincidence that there are small and large breaks at school. Plan such breaks in your work structure.

9) Anyone who is popular and also helpful not only has a lot of friends, but also knows a lot of people with needs. If you are restless, don't put others' needs above their own. Real friends can take it if you only listen to the answering machine when you have the peace of mind.

10) Are you often nervous and at the same time constantly active in social networks? Establish fixed rules for emails, Whatś app, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There is nothing else you can do for 24 hours, as new links and comments appear constantly. Also, get in the habit of not responding to every request, even and especially when it is difficult for you.

11) Do you find out where you suffer most from nervousness? In the flat? At work? Deliberately seek distance from these places. Go hiking in nature or ride a bike.

12) End the day. Home office, laptop and Internet blur day and night, work and leisure. Set a time when you have finished your daily workload. You can also tie this time to fixed actions: Dinner is at 8:00 p.m., after that I am no longer answering calls. Or: At 7:00 p.m. I switch off my laptop and go for a walk on the river.

13) Can't you switch off? Learn techniques to relax, yoga or autogenic training, meditation or gymnastics. You can also take courses that every adult education center offers.

Don't forget: The best relaxation exercise is and remains to sit on the sofa and do nothing for once.

14) Treat yourself to hot baths, a visit to the sauna, massages with lavender oil or fragrance lamps with essential oils. Drink calming teas.

The "urgent disease"

Psychology Diane Ulmer and her colleague Leonhard Schwartzburd described hurry sickness in 1996. The disease is not officially recognized; Ulmer and Schwartzburd outlined symptoms that are typical of restless people.

The "urgent illness" denotes a state of being internally driven. Those affected are constantly pressed for time, thinking that they have to hurry up or are late for whatever. It is typical that there is no real time pressure or that actual deadlines do not explain the symptoms.

For example, the psychologists asked whether the test subjects at a red traffic light would be nervous, could not stand standing in line, or showed stress symptoms in a traffic jam on the highway.

What they had in common was that they were only interested in aspects of life for which they had to achieve goals. The quality of the experience played hardly a role.

There was also a strong compulsion to count. "Urgent patients" not only constantly checked the watch, they also registered minimal changes on the stock exchange or the digits of the blood pressure monitor.

Those affected reported a racing tantrum that robbed them of sleep and weakened their concentration. This turned into a compulsive brooding over the past and the future, imagining the fictional events of the future down to the smallest detail. At the same time, they could not perceive the present and could not enjoy the moment. The memories of those affected were only negative, they seemed to suggest disasters of the future from alleged past disasters.

It is unclear whether the term "urgent illness" shows its own phenomenon, because the negative thoughts, the racing of thoughts and the brooding also characterize anxiety disorders and depressive illnesses.

Restlessness and depression

Clinical depression, which can be treated with antidepressants, is characterized by the following main symptoms: An inhibition of drive, which apparently paradoxically goes hand in hand with restlessness - but not with external restlessness. However, the agitated depression can also be seen in stereotypical movements that typically run into nothing. In addition, there is a narrower mood, depressed people experience neither joy nor sadness.

Those affected tripple, they wring their hands, they run back and forth aimlessly, often wailing in a monotonous “chant”. There is also an extreme but undirected fear. Even if their bodies are extremely restless, they cannot carry out any longer activities. External restlessness is considered a symptom of overt depression.

Subclinical depressives, on the other hand, feel the restlessness (only) in the body. For the doctor, this feeling is a sure sign that there is depression. He has to ask those affected because the feeling cannot be recognized externally. Inner anxiety distinguishes depression from depression.

Depressive moods are characterized by general depression and a negative view of the world and one's own life, but not by restlessness. In order to diagnose depression, anxiety is even more important than inability to feel feelings.

There is no doubt that it is depression if the following symptoms are also present:

1) Inhibition. Depressed people are less receptive and lose focus. The inner unrest shows that it is not dementia.

2) Lack of interest: Sick people lose interest in hobbies, social and professional goals. They don't care about their relationships and friendships. Depression has no unique selling point here: Schizophrenics go through similar phases and deep grief can also have an effect.

3) loss of self-confidence. Depression means not being able, but wanting.

4) Self-reproach. Depressed people make themselves responsible for their condition and also torment themselves with blame, which usually has no objective basis.

5) Reduced expression. Depressed people do not take part in conversations, their facial expressions “freeze”, just like the gestures.

6) Loss of creativity: The inhibition of thinking blocks intuitive ideas, the lack of drive strikes the nail in the coffin of creativity.

7) Inferiority: Depressed people feel useless, inferior and believe that they are a burden for their fellow human beings.

8) hopelessness. Those affected lose hope that things will continue somehow even in bad times.

9) Decision weakness: If drive and thinking are inhibited, the result is that the sick do not activate themselves to act. You cannot choose to do anything.

10) Pessimism. Depressed people are afraid of everything that comes up in everyday life, be it a visit to the dentist, a transfer to the bank or shopping in the supermarket.

11) Isolation: Depressed people withdraw from social relationships because they perceive economical communication as a burden.

12) Compulsive brooding. Thoughts circle without getting any direction and torment those affected.

13) The risk of suicide is very high for depressed people.

Restlessness combined with passivity is typical for diseases from the depressive form. The depression's sense of time provides an explanation: time is frozen, the future seems lost. There is no longer any connection between past and future plans, as the future appears as a black hole.

This is how depressed people feel banished from social relationships, because transforming the future into the present, learning from the past for the present, and taking what has been achieved in the past as the basis for shaping the future is part of life.

Inner unrest is an inseparable part of this “lost time”. Where should the depressed go? In the dark and timeless past, in the future, which will bring no more than today? If you don't find a positive point of reference, you can't develop a structure - depressed people can't find peace in the order of time, and their psyche roams restlessly through an empty space in which past and future shrink in a timeless blackness.

The emptiness that the depressed feel is restless, namely without a hold. They are hikers in the void who cannot take a break.

When is the doctor asked?

If the restlessness persists and if you have other ailments, whether dizziness or nausea, go to the doctor.

He examines her medical history, asks about the duration of the nervousness, any medication and other complaints.

The doctor first examines the body, measures blood pressure and examines the blood if there is suspicion of hypoglycaemia, thyroid problems or pulmonary embolism.

An x-ray gives certainty whether there is a pulmonary embolism.

Tests show whether mental disorders such as schizophrenia play a role.

Soothing teas and baths

A calming tea can contain, for example, peppermint, passion flower, valerian and lavender. Pour water over the fresh or dried plants and drink a few cups in the morning and early afternoon. Tip: Coffee drinkers who suffer from restlessness do themselves a favor by replacing the coffee ritual with such a tea.

Hops, lemon balm, hay flowers or lavender are recommended for baths. You can find bath salts for relaxation in every drugstore and pharmacy.

Sport works

Sport counteracts inner tension. It promotes blood circulation and the brain receives more oxygen. It boosts the metabolism and it releases the endorphins. The last point is particularly important, since the endorphins trigger well-being and so dampen nervousness, which has its cause in psychological complaints.

Sport also distracts: perfectionists doubt they are living up to their ideal; Anxiety sufferers fixate on what frightens them, and depressed people circle their black thoughts. Anyone who does sports concentrates on running, swimming or climbing and thus directs the negative feelings and thoughts in a different direction.

Caution: Exercise against inner restlessness serves to reduce stress and not to build it up. So nervous people should keep their measurements. If you are constantly overworked in the job and therefore cannot fall asleep, you should not extend this performance thinking to your body. It's about becoming calmer, not about breaking the world record in the marathon.

Incidentally, the opposite is also true: competitive athletes who, for whatever reason, stop sport abruptly, often become irritable and are driven internally.

The excitement of the sympathetic nervous system is dampened by sport if it was running at full speed beforehand.

Generally speaking, nervousness alone is not a disease. Increased restlessness, which arises from social stress, can be alleviated with simple means. Above all, this includes the courage to say no occasionally.

If nervousness is combined with mental complaints and organic illnesses, then you should definitely consult a doctor. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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  • Lois Choi-Kain: Overview of Personality Disorders, MSD Manual, (accessed August 26, 2019), MSD

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