Delirium is usually the result of an impairment in the brain’s process of sending and receiving signals and often results from a pre-existing condition, such as dementia, fever or withdrawal, or from a substance introduced to the body, such as surgery anesthetics or recreational drugs.
Symptoms of delirium manifest in a variety of ways and often have a fast onset period. A patient may go from normal to delirious in a matter of hours, or the symptoms may fade in and out. Usually there is a sense of disconnect from the immediate environment - bouts of distraction, withdrawal or an odd focus on something trivial - followed by mental disorientations manifesting in significant communication errors, inability to recall basic facts and memory loss. Worse cases may also couple this with erratic behaviours such as restlessness, aggression, disproportional emotional responses and even hallucinations. Fortunately, the time of delirium often passes as quickly as it arrives, or once the debilitating substance has passed through the system. However, it can also complicate pre-existing conditions or be a signal that something is seriously wrong in the brain, and so should not be passed over lightly.
Treatment usually takes the form of tackling the underlying trigger of a period of delirium but in cases where it is a recurring issue, there are a number of preventative or coping techniques one can invest in. Using clocks to orientate oneself is a popular such technique, as is simply having a caregiver present to provide stability in these times. There are also some medications available to alleviate the symptoms. A healthy diet, sleep pattern and exercise routine are also recommended as preventive measures.
Mayo Clinic Staff (). Delirium - Prevention. [ONLINE] Available at: www.mayoclinic.com/health/delirium/DS01064/DSECTION=prevention. [Last Accessed 13.12.13].