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J Clin Nurs. 2007 May;16(5):810-8.

Patients' experiences of being delirious.

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Department of Health and Social Sciences, Högskolan Dalarna, Falun, Sweden.



The aim was to describe patients' experiences of being delirious.


Delirium is a serious psychiatric disorder that is frequently reported from hospital care settings, particularly among older patients undergoing hip surgery. It involves disturbances of consciousness and changes in cognition, a state which develops over a short period of time and tends to fluctuate during the course of the day. It is a certified fact that delirium is poorly diagnosed and recognized although the state often is described as terrifying. To be able to give professional care, it is of the utmost importance to know more about patients' experience of delirium.


Included in the interviews were patients who had undergone hip-related surgery and during the hospital stay experienced delirium. Fifteen patients participated in the interviews. Of these, six had experienced episodes of nightly delirium (sundown syndrome) and nine experienced delirium during at least one day. The interviews were analysed by qualitative content analysis.


The entry of delirium was experienced as a sudden change of reality that, in some cases, could be connected to basic unfulfilled physiological needs. The delirium experiences were like dramatic scenes that gave rise to strong emotional feelings of fear, panic and anger. The experiences were also characterized by opposite pairs; they took place in the hospital but at the same time somewhere else; it was like dreaming but still being awake. The exit from the delirium was associated with disparate feelings.


It is necessary to understand patients' thoughts and experiences during the delirious phase to be able to give professional care, both during the delirium phase and after the recovery.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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