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How is ICU psychosis treated?

The treatment of ICU psychosis clearly depends on the cause(s). Many times the actual cause of the psychosis involves many factors, and many issues will need to be addressed to relieve the symptoms. A first step is a review of the patient's medications. The physician in charge of the patient along with the pharmacist can review each of the patient's medications to determine if they may be influencing the delirium.

Family members, familiar objects, and calm words may help. Sleep deprivation may be a major contributing factor. Therefore, providing a quiet restful environment to allow the patient optimal sleep is important. Controlling the amount of time visitors are allowed to stimulate the patient can also help. Dehydration is remedied by administering fluids. Heart failure requires treatment with digitalis. Infections must be diagnosed and treated. Sedation with anti-psychotic agents may help. A common medication used in the hospital setting to treat ICU psychosis is haloperidol or other medications for psychosis (antipsychotics).

It should be understood that in saving a life in the critical environment, ICU psychosis sometimes may be a small price to pay for cutting edge, precise medical life-saving measures.

Return to ICU Psychosis

See what others are saying

Comment from: Richnurse61, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: August 16

ICU psychosis is very real and frightening. I myself went through it as I spent 2 weeks in ICU. I just thank my family and the staff at the hospital that they were very strong and aware of what was going on. I was having hallucinations to the point where I was seeing little men crawling out behind my message board, and I was verbally aggressive towards some staff and my family. I am generally very laid back and easy to get along with. At times I would look over the side of my bed and it looked as if I was looking down an elevator shaft, other times it appeared as if the room had shifted. I was having delusions and apparently the staff had considered calling security 3 times, and even considered a medical coma to prevent me from harming anyone. Heaven forbid, I couldn't forgive myself if I did. I spoke to my lovely wife of 32 years in a horrific manner and would probably have killed myself if she had followed through on my terrible request. And to my mother who often sat and prayed at my bedside, I am true sorry. I am back to my ole happy self now but still want to give a big shout out to the great staff doctors and nurses who provided exemplary care.

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Comment from: miki_p, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: May 23

I underwent open thorax surgery to repair a congenital heart defect and the day after surgery experienced an episode of severe paranoia or ICU psychosis where I demanded that the surgeon administer my medications as I thought the nursing staff was trying to poison me because I reported a nursing error (actual error but minor). The episode resolved itself after 4 or 5 hours.

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