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Am J Emerg Med. 1995 May;13(3):344-50.

Management of behavioral emergencies.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, USA.


Accurate diagnosis and a clear management approach are the most important considerations in caring for behaviorally disordered emergency department patients. Treating behavioral emergencies often precedes an accurate diagnosis. A useful approach is differentiating emergencies that need nonpharmacological intervention, minimal pharmacological intervention, or maximal pharmacological intervention. Conditions that require nonpharmacological interventions include suicidal state, homicidal state, self-neglect state, abuse state, and conditions primarily requiring an organic workup. Behavioral emergencies usually requiring minimal pharmacological intervention include adjustment disorder, acute grief, rape and assault, and borderline personality disorder. Behavioral emergencies requiring maximal pharmacological intervention include assault, agitated psychosis, exacerbation of bipolar disorder, exacerbation of schizophrenia, brief reactive psychosis, delirium, dementia, substance withdrawal, and substance intoxication accompanied by violent behavior.

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