Delirium classification

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Sara Zand, M.D.[2] Pratik Bahekar, MBBS [3]; Vishal Khurana, M.B.B.S., M.D. [4]


Delirium is classified on the basis of etiology, duration, and severity. Hyperactive delirium is defined as increased psychomotor activity, which may occur with increased mood lability, agitation, non cooperative attitude towards medical treatment. Hypoactive delirium is explained by a hypoactive level of psychomotor activity, which may exist along with increased lethargy or stupor, inattentiveness and motor slowness and is much more common among ICU admitted patients with severe disease.

Types of Delirium

Delirium may be classified into the following:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)-5 World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (10th revision) ICD-10

Classification based on Types
Etiology Substance intoxication delirium
Substance withdrawal delirium
Delirium caused by another medical condition
Delirium caused by multiple etiologies
Duration Acute
Severity Hyperactive
Mixed level of activity

Based on Duration

  • Acute: When delirium lasts for a few hours to days.
  • Persistent: When delirium lasts for weeks or months.

Based on Severity

Some authors have described a fourth type of delirium called as subsyndromal delirium, which is an incomplete form of delirium.[3]


  1. Krewulak, Karla D.; Stelfox, Henry T.; Leigh, Jeanna Parsons; Ely, E. Wesley; Fiest, Kirsten M. (2018). "Incidence and Prevalence of Delirium Subtypes in an Adult ICU". Critical Care Medicine. 46 (12): 2029–2035. doi:10.1097/CCM.0000000000003402. ISSN 0090-3493.
  2. Inouye, SK.; Westendorp, RG.; Saczynski, JS. (2013). "Delirium in elderly people". Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60688-1. PMID 23992774. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  3. Young, J.; Inouye, SK. (2007). "Delirium in older people". BMJ. 334 (7598): 842–6. doi:10.1136/bmj.39169.706574.AD. PMID 17446616. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)

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