Delirium is derived from the Latin word ‘delirare’, which means ‘to deviate from a straight line, to be deranged. Delirium is a severe neuropsychiatric syndrome characterized by deficits in attention and cognition. As a result, patients often experience altered levels of arousal, ranging from reduced responsiveness at a near-coma level to hypervigilance and severe agitation. Symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations, may also be highly distressing. As delirium progresses, its symptoms tend to fluctuate in severity and presence. Patients and caregivers who suffer from delirium experience considerable distress.

Types And Symptoms Of Delirium

The symptoms of delirium can vary from person to person, and doctors diagnose it as one of three types of delirium. The three types are:

Delirium anatomy - its causes and effects projected on a human brain

Could it be that you are suffering from Delirium?

Hypoactive Delirium: people may feel tired or depressed or move slower than normal

Hyperactive Delirium: people may feel restless, agitated, or aggressive

Mixed Delirium: people alternate between hypoactive and hyperactive states

There are some people who suffer from delirium who do not experience any physical symptoms at all. This form of delirium is often referred to by doctors as delirium without motor symptoms.

All types of delirium can include the following symptoms:

  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Loss of memory
  • Speaking incoherently or with slurred speech
  • Concentration problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep Pattern Changes
  • Mood or personality changes

Causes of Delirium

The exact cause of delirium is unknown to medical professionals at this time. There is evidence that inflammation of the brain, imbalances in neurotransmitters, and chronic stress may all play a role in the onset of symptoms, even though they are not all directly related.

Causes of delirium can include:

  • Pneumonia and urinary tract infections are common infections
  • Dopamine or acetylcholine imbalances
  • Tumors of the brain
  • Trauma to the head
  • Failure of the kidneys or liver
  • Misuse of alcohol, medicine, or drugs
  • Sedatives, sleeping pills, and blood pressure medications
  • Toxic substances exposure
  • Sleep deprivation

Treatment For Delirium

A number of medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but none have been approved for the treatment of delirium itself. It is usually the underlying cause of delirium that needs to be identified and treated as the first line of treatment for delirium.

As long as the delirium is caused by a change in medication, all that may need to be done is to stop taking the medication that is causing the delirium.

The underlying cause of delirium can be treated with medications prescribed by doctors. If a person has a bacterial infection that is not treated, a doctor is likely to prescribe a course of antibiotics for them if they have an untreated infection.

Doctors may prescribe low dosages of psychotropic medications to people who have severe or dangerous symptoms, such as extreme agitation or demonstrating violent behaviors. Examples of psychotropic medications that a doctor might prescribe include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Sedatives
  • Dopamine Blockers

According to the authors of a 2018 review article, people may continue experiencing symptoms of delirium for several days to months after doctors start treating the underlying cause.


In the event of delirium, the mental state of a person suddenly changes. This may result in confusion, memory problems, or changes in their emotional state or state of consciousness.

If a person experiences any of the symptoms of delirium, they or someone they love should seek professional help as soon as possible.

Delirium is a condition that can be caused by infections, chemical imbalances, and certain medications. The risk of future complications may be reduced if the condition is diagnosed early and treated promptly.