Key messages

• Agitation is defined as a state of increased psychomotor activity, often accompanied by increased volume and rate of speech, as well as labile and inappropriate affect.

• The hallmark of delirium is fluctuation or clouding of consciousness, i.e. a reduced clarity of awareness of the environment.

• The differential diagnosis and treatment of the purely agitated state differ from that of confusion. A confusional state may change several times over a period of hours, requiring repeated assessments.

• Delirium can be diagnosed if the patient shows several features during parts of the evaluation process. Three domains (i.e. attention, orientation, and memory) are typically impaired in delirious patients.

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