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ICU psychosis has been well known since the 1960's, but only recently has there been a noticeable increase in published literature. ICU Psychosis is often referred to as ICU Syndrome.

Patients in Intensive Care who have undergone major surgery coupled with having been given strong anaesthetic drugs run the risk of experiencing side effects from a combination of trauma and the drugs. Typically morphine is used (along with other drugs) which is an opiate that can cause hallucinations and cause the patient to experience delirium.

The condition has been formally defined as "acute brain syndrome involving impaired intellectual functioning which occurs in patients who are being treated within a critical care unit."

There are various definitions of ICU Psychosis, but there appears to be a consistency across the various definitions:

"ICU psychosis is a disorder in which patients in an intensive care unit (ICU) or a similar setting experience anxiety, hear voices, see things that are not there, and become paranoid, severely disoriented in time and place, very agitated, or even violent, etc. In short, patients become temporarily psychotic."

"Psychosis: An organic or functional mental illness involving gross disorder of perception and/or thought form or content which causes the subject to lose touch with external reality. Psychotic Symptom: A symptom which causes a misinterpretation of the nature of reality. Typically hallucinations; delusional beliefs; disorders of the stream of thought (speed, pressure); formal thought disorder (linking of thoughts together)."

"Psychosis is a symptom or feature of mental illness typically characterized by radical changes in personality, impaired functioning, and a distorted or non-existent sense of objective reality."

Psychosis is characterized by the following symptoms:

Delusions. Those delusions that occur in schizophrenia and its related forms are typically bizarre (i.e., they could not occur in real life). Delusions occurring in delusional disorder are more plausible, but still patently untrue. In some cases, delusions may be accompanied by feelings of paranoia.

. Psychotic patients see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren't there. Schizophrenic hallucinations are typically auditory or, less commonly, visual; but psychotic hallucinations can involve any of the five senses.

Disorganized speech
. Psychotic patients, especially those with schizophrenia, often ramble on in incoherent, nonsensical speech patterns.

Disorganized or catatonic behaviour
. The catatonic patient reacts inappropriately to his or her environment by either remaining rigid and immobile or by engaging in excessive motor activity. Disorganized behaviour is behaviour or activity that is inappropriate for the situation, or unpredictable.




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