Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan


  • Robert J. BolandEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1285


Acute brain failure; Acute confusional state; Acute encephalopathy; Intensive care unit (ICU) psychosis; Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy

Short Description or Definition

“Delirium” describes a wide variety of confusional states. The original term is from a Latin metaphor: de for “deviate from” and lira for the ridge of a furrow; thus, if a Roman farmer was ploughing and went off the line of the furrow, he committed a “delirium” or got off the track. Generally, it includes several features that are central to the disorder: it is acute, has a fluctuating course, and has a gross effect on brain functioning. Most typically, delirium affects a person’s level of consciousness; that is, the person’s ability to focus, sustain, and shift attention. In addition, it affects a person’s level of arousal, and a delirious person’s behavior can range from lethargic to agitated; often it will fluctuate between the two states within relatively brief intervals of time (e.g., several hours). In...

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References and Readings

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryBrigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA