Psychiatric emergencies are acute disturbances in thought, behavior, mood, or social relationship that require immediate intervention as defined by the patient, family, or social unit to save the patient and/or others from imminent danger. Ensuring the safety of the patient, surrounding persons, and the medical team is the first step of evaluation. Treatment focuses on stabilization of the patient, then on specific symptoms and ultimately the cause of symptoms. There are important legal considerations, particularly regarding involuntary admissions. It is important to debrief with the patient, surrounding family, and the health care team to ensure a continued therapeutic alliance and the emotional health of all involved.


Symptoms and conditions behind psychiatric emergencies may include, but are not limited to:

– Attempted suicide.
– Substance dependence.
– Alcohol intoxication.
– Acute depression.
– Presence of delusions.
– Violence.
– Panic attacks.
– Significant, rapid changes in behavior.

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