Delirium is when you depart from normal cognitive brain function, and it can be brought on by a variety of causes ranging from certain medications to diseases to infections and injuries. It can creep up suddenly and disguise itself as another problem, namely dementia.
The Mayo Clinic said symptoms of delirium “begin over a few hours or a few days,” and that people experiencing delirium can go in and out of it throughout the day. Let’s take a closer look at six signs and symptoms of delirium to avoid any confusion…
1. Disregard of Surroundings
The Mayo Clinic also explains symptoms of delirium can be increased at night, especially if someone is unfamiliar with their environment. However, speaking of environment, the clinic notes outside stimuli may have less of an effect on the patient, and they may respond in ways you don’t expect them to.
This can mean a lack of awareness about what people are saying and instead repeating the same thoughts. A sufferer of delirium may also be easily distracted by things around them that aren’t important, adds the source.
2. Memory Impairment
The American Academy of Family Physicians explains that trouble remembering details is another possible sign of delirium, not to be confused with dementia. This can affect short-term memory – for example, not knowing why they’re in hospital or forgetting details about the medical care they received that day.
This can also mean the patient becomes confused about where they are and what day of the week it is, which may only be apparently if they’re asked these types of questions directly, notes the source. “For example, hospital staff and family members may assume that a patient is fully oriented only to be surprised when the patient insists that he or she is at home and that the date is 10 years earlier,” it adds.
3. Sudden Mood Changes
A person with delirium may be scared or confused, so it’s no surprise their mood can change quickly to reflect this. News-Medical.net explains the patient may experience “rapid” changes in demeanor that can cause them to act out, become anxious or exhibit depression.
If a person becomes suddenly confused, you should seek medical attention, adds the source. Sedative medications can worsen the delirium, and should only be given if the patient is at risk of harming themselves or others, it explains.
4. Trouble Communicating
The Mayo Clinic notes that some symptoms of delirium can be similar to aphasia, which can cause a person to have trouble communicating verbally. However, aphasia usually is the result of a stroke or head trauma.
Delirium may have no obvious underlying causes, but the person may be reaching for words or having difficulty putting sentences together. They may also be speaking clearly, but not making any sense to the people around them. Reading and writing will also be impacted.
5. Neurological Side Effects
What affects the mind affects the body, and that’s no different in the case of delirium. The American Academy of Family Physicians notes while a person may act differently, there could be some physical signs to look for – such as tremors, twitches, as well as an unsteady walk.
Other associated problems that fall into the neurological category include difficulty reading and reading (as noted earlier), as well as “visuoconstruction” problems, which the source explains is trouble with copying designs and finding words.
6. Hallucinations and Delusions
These are defined by seeing or perceiving something that isn’t there, which can be alarming for both the patient and caregivers. Hallucinations are also a symptom of delirium, according to MedScape.com.
These hallucinations can also accompany “persecutory delusions” (the belief one is being persecuted for wrongdoing) as well as “grandiose delusions” (that make the person believe they are revered and famous, as well as powerful), adds the site.