Information on the causes of delirium disorders and signs of delirium in older adults.

learn about the symptoms of delirium disorders

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  1. What is Delirium?
  2. What Causes Delirium?
  3. Help for Delirium

What is Delirium?

Feeling delirious or delirium is a state of confusion that is characterized by a change in mental status that affects cognitive abilities (mental tasks) and reduces conscious awareness. It also tends to develope very rapidly.

It usually takes a few hours to a few days to manifest and when it does, the individual is often left feeling confused, disoriented and unaware of their surroundings. It can affect speech, memory, attention span, emotions and personality as well as other cognitive capacities, which can be very distressing for both the sufferer as well as loved ones.

The good news is that all these symptoms are usually temporary, and in most cases only last between a few hours and a few days, depending on the cause and treatment. While Delirium itself does not cause death, it is sometimes a symptom of a serious medical condition, such as a very high fever or severe head injury.

What Causes Delirium

Delirium is a syndrome (a pattern of symptoms) rather than a disorder or diagnosis, which can develop for a number of medical reasons. In order to establish treatments for delirium, the underlying medical problem needs to be determined and addressed.

Some common causes of delirious feelings are:

  • Substance abuse or the combination of certain drugs and/or alcohol
  • Improper use of medications or adverse drug reactions to certain prescription medications
  • A symptom of substance withdrawal
  • Head injury or brain infection
  • High fever
  • Infections such as pneumonia
  • Lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Excessive stress
  • Dementia
  • B-1 vitamin deficiency

Delirium and Dementia are sometimes related since Delirium is often associated with the elderly. This is because older adults are more susceptible to developing Delirium disorders as a result of dementia, mild infections or medication changes.

Help for Delirium

After the first signs of Delirium are noticed, it is important to establish the underlying cause by means of a thorough medical examination in order to select one of the appropriate treatments for Delirium. Home treatments for Delirium and Dementia should not be the first option.

More Information on Delirium

Other Disorders Related to Delirium

Feeling delirious is a sign of delirium that is sometimes related to other disorders such as depression, substance abuse, phobias and anxiety disorders (particularly Panic Disorder). It is therefore recommended that a professional evaluation be sought, so that you can receive a proper diagnosis and treatment for any other co-existing problems.


Tips for Coping with Delirium
  • One step at a time! Set small attainable goals and get comfortable with them before moving on to the next step.
  • Familiarize yourself with unknown situations before diving into them. For example, if you know you have a function to attend, go and look around the venue beforehand so that it is not altogether unknown.
  • Some people find running a particularly useful way of facing their Delirium - as it’s almost impossible to have a panic attack while running. Disguised as a jogger, nobody will notice your anxious breathlessness as unusual. While it may literally seem that you are running away from your fears, you will be doing the exact opposite! An added bonus is that while you jog your body will release happiness producing hormones at the same time, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment and relaxation.
  • Keep a journal, talk to a "safe person", or find another positive means for expressing your emotions. As with many psychological conditions, Delirium disorders are often entangled in deep emotions, insecurities and thoughts that need to be explored and dealt with.
  • Keep reminding yourself of the reality of your situation. While this may be easier said than done, try to focus on the realistic outcomes of your anxiety situation. When catastrophic thoughts are running through your mind try yelling a focus-phrase (out loud or in your head) such as "STOP IT" or "ENOUGH NOW!" that will help to bring you back into the present. Your panic will soon pass and even if you have to push past a few people to get outside, they probably won’t notice. Remember that panic is not physically harmful!
  • Empower yourself in other areas in your life. Take up a hobby, sporting activity, or interesting course. The confidence you gain in these areas will spill over into other aspects of you life.
  • Become an expert! Learn all there is to know about Delirium disorders and signs of delirium. There are multiple self-help books, internet resources and support groups that will help you understand your condition more fully and provide helpful guidance.
  • Live a healthy life-style! Eating a well balanced diet, getting enough sleep and relaxation time and regular exercise can help reduce anxiety and stress.


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