DDelirium, or a state of acute mental confusion, is a syndrome that displays a varying lack of attention, awareness, and cognitive mental processes such as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, or learning. Delirium develops quickly — in hours or days. This sudden reduced awareness of one’s surroundings and confused thinking is a critical interference with a person’s mental capacity and function.
Delirium is an interruption or impairment in the sending and receiving of signals or information in the brain, which makes it vulnerable and can result in the malfunction of normal brain functions.
Where possible, a doctor may solicit input from caregivers or family members to accurately diagnose the condition, since delirium and dementia have similar symptoms.
It is not uncommon for the associated hallucinations to be frightening and/or bizarre where the person sees people or things which aren’t there. This can become particularly unsettling if additional symptoms like paranoia or delusions appear at the same time.
Each person’s response to the condition will vary, and while some might physically pace the floor, be agitated or restless and irritable, others may withdraw and become quiet, which can conceal the condition or the symptom, and another group of individuals will have a mix of both responses.
Of all general admissions to hospital, between 15 and 20% of patients experience delirium, with a higher frequency in the elderly, and especially those with preexisting conditions.
The duration of delirium can last from only a few hours to as long as several weeks or even months.
Dementia vs Delirium
Individuals who have dementia can see a higher frequency of occurrence of delirium. This presents challenges since the two conditions can be somewhat difficult to tell apart when looking at symptoms.
Dementia and delirium symptom differences include: