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Signs of an Agitated Individual

Signs of an Agitated Individual

There are many of us out there whose jobs require us to regularly interact with people other than our colleagues, sometimes including customers or the general public or both. Not only this, but many of us must interact with these people while working alone, making it more difficult to get the help that we need should we run into a dangerous situation. Examples of this include home health aides and their patients, social workers and those involved with their cases, utility workers and their clients, teachers and their students, etc.

As we always discuss here at SoloProtect, planning and prevention are two of the most important aspects of lone worker safety. In the case of lone workers interacting with other people, part of this includes planning for what happens when someone that you are interacting with becomes disgruntled in an effort to de-escalate the situation. The first step of this process involves recognizing that someone is agitated and may require verbal de-escalation for your own lone worker safety.

Believe it or not, whether someone is disgruntled, agitated or irritated isn’t always black and white and is not always as easily detected as one might think. This is because an individual becomes disgruntled due to triggering events. Sometimes these events can be an effect of your interaction with that individual, but sometimes the events could have happened earlier that day, such as a disagreement with a family member or bad traffic. That is what makes detection so important.

Below are some signs that an individual is agitated and that you may need to take actions toward verbal de-escalation .

Physiological Signs

There are several physiological clues that indicate that an individual is agitated that happen involuntarily. One of these includes involuntarily shaking. Think about it: we usually see people’s hands shake when they are nervous or anxious about something. This is usually an indicator that someone is not at ease. Other physiological signs of agitation include breathing heavily, tensing of muscles and flushed skin. As you can see, these signs are small and not always easily detected, but if paid attention to, they can help you take a proactive approach with someone who is agitated early on for your own lone worker safety. Of course, just because someone is displaying one or more of these signs, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that someone is agitated. You would imagine that someone who just took a long run might show similar signs. It is up to you to apply context to the situation in order to assess whether your lone worker safety is at stake.

Behavioral Indicators

When a person is agitated, they are also likely to clue you in via the way that they act. These signs are much more pronounced than the physiological signs, but they still are often written off or not paid attention to. Just as shaking was a physiological sign of agitation, a different, more deliberate type of shaking can be a behavioral sign that someone is disgruntled. Examples of this include shaking of the finger, the head or shaking the foot anxiously. If someone is making sudden or unpredictable movements or jolts, for example, moving closer to you in a sudden and provoking way, this is another sign that something is probably not right. If they are talking louder than usual or raising their voice, it is probably time to begin verbal de-escalation. It’s important to pay attention to a person’s eye movements as well. If someone is maintaining a fixed stare, whether on you or any other object, this can be a definite sign of anger. Conversely, if someone is scanning the room or looking all around, this could be a sign that they are looking for an exit/a way to remove themselves from the situation or, as scary it sounds, they may be looking around for something that they can use as a weapon. While some of these may seem small and unimportant when occurring, anything that seems out of the ordinary, whether originally threatening on its own or not, can help you be aware that you may need to take action for your lone worker safety and de-escalate the situation before it gets to a dangerous point.

As discussed, if someone displays some or all of these signs and you determine with context that they are, in fact, agitated, this gives you the chance to use your own words and actions to calm the individual down before it gets to the point where your safety is compromised. For tips on how to do so, you can download our free guide: “How to De-escalate a Threatening Situation.” To learn more about SoloProtect and our lone worker safety solution, visit

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