Mental-Cognitive Symptoms

How Anxiety Can Cause Delirium

Micah Abraham, BSc

Written by

Micah Abraham, BSc

Last updated October 26, 2020

How Anxiety Can Cause Delirium

Anxiety is incredibly overwhelming, and anxiety attacks even more so. While anxiety tends to be a bit more of a chronic condition that you suffer through each and every day, there are times when the anxiety can become so severe that it causes jumbled thoughts, confusion, trouble concentrating, and more.

All of these symptoms are sometimes described as delirium. But it's not clear that that is the correct diagnosis. In this article, we'll explore the ideas behind delirium as well as how it relates to anxiety.

How Anxiety Relates to Delirium

It's no surprise that those with anxiety believe themselves to be delirious. After all, the condition can cause severe consciousness issues, like derealization. 

But there are two things to remember about delirium:

  • Generally, the person that is delirious doesn't know they're delirious, or have that worry since it tends to be such severe confusion that they don't have any awareness of it.
  • Delirium tends to have an organic cause, and isn't generally considered the symptom or an exacerbation of a natural condition.

Certainly there are a lot of related symptoms, especially with panic attacks (severe anxiety attacks), since they can cause issues such as:

  • Severe confusion.
  • Loss of touch with reality.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

Those in the process of a severe panic attack may feel that they've temporarily lost touch with the world around them and have trouble focusing on anything other than their anxiety. It's possible that this can be called "Being Delirious" but under the current definition of delirium, this is considered a separate condition, because the symptoms are not caused by anything organic in the body, but rather because your anxiety got so intense your brain had trouble coping with anything else.

Curing Anxiety Delirium

Whether or not anxiety can be considered true delirium or if it's something that should be considered a separate condition, there is still no denying that confusion is real, the overwhelming feeling is real, and that the loss of touch with reality can be real.

So even though it may not technically be delirium, it clearly feels like delirium, and for some people that can be a serious problem. You can get over this feeling by simply trying to decrease the severity of your anxiety. The more you can decrease the severity of your anxiety, the less overwhelming it feels and the less you'll feel the effects of that delirium.

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Where can I go to learn more about Jacobson’s relaxation technique and other similar methods?

– Anonymous patient


You can ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or other mental health professional who uses relaxation techniques to help patients. Not all psychologists or other mental health professionals are knowledgeable about these techniques, though. Therapists often add their own “twist” to the technqiues. Training varies by the type of technique that they use. Some people also buy CDs and DVDs on progressive muscle relaxation and allow the audio to guide them through the process.

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