Acute behavioural disturbance: recognition, assessment and management
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Acute behavioural disturbance: recognition, assessment and management

Matthew Peel Advanced clinical practitioner, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Leeds, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To recognise the signs and symptoms of acute behavioural disturbance

  • To learn about the pathophysiology of acute behavioural disturbance

  • To understand the principles of assessment and management of people with acute behavioural disturbance

Acute behavioural disturbance (ABD) is a clinical emergency which typically affects overweight men in their mid-thirties who chronically misuse illicit stimulants. People with ABD are most likely to be seen in police custody or emergency departments, therefore nurses working in these areas must be able to recognise the signs and symptoms and know how to respond appropriately. Presentation varies, but the signs and symptoms commonly include extreme agitation, hyperthermia, hostility and exceptional strength without fatigue. Further, it is important to recognise that people with ABD are at risk of developing metabolic acidosis, hyperkalaemia, rhabdomyolysis or disseminated intravascular coagulation. This article gives an overview of ABD and describes the main elements of management and treatment.

Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2022.e2126

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

Peel MR (2022) Acute behavioural disturbance: recognition, assessment and management. Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2022.e2126

Published online: 31 March 2022

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