Hospital Psychosis

Hospitals can be stressful to patients. The combination of unusual surroundings, unfamiliar people and noisy equipment can lead to a frightening condition. This is known as hospital psychosis. A psychosis is a state of mind where a person has lost touch with reality. This means he/she can hear voices or see things that are not there.


This is not usually evidence of more serious mental problems. It is not likely to be permanent. It is a condition which seems to be triggered mostly by the length of time spent in the hospital. Friends and caregivers may notice a great change in the patient's behavior after a few days in a hospital.


Patients with this condition often have:

  • Sensory hallucinations.

  • Slurred or confused speech.

  • Memory loss.

The hallucinations appear to be based in reality. Patients may not realize their surroundings are as they see them. Conversations may be perfectly reasoned but also completely mistaken. Sometimes familiar faces allow your loved one to get a brief connection to the real world.


Thinking disorders do not always mean a hospital psychosis is present.

  • Many medications can produce confusion, including:

  • Sedatives.

  • Pain medications.

  • Tranquilizers.

  • Anesthesia after-effects.

  • Elderly patients not receiving the normal day/night light cues may develop something called sundowner's syndrome. They may experience hallucinations or exhibit confused speech. This is similar to early Alzheimer's disease. It is not a true psychotic break.

  • If hospital psychosis becomes evident, patients may receive anti-psychotic or anti-depressant medications to help them return to reality.


Hospital psychosis generally goes away within a few days of getting back in familiar surroundings. It is very difficult for families to see their loved one act foolishly or seem completely disconnected from reality. This may be heart wrenching for the family. Many sleep-deprived or anxious patients may not understand why they are so confused or delusional. Later patients may regret their actions while having a hospital psychosis. They may remember terrible situations that at the time were very real to them. Later they realize it was almost like a bad dream they took part in.

Friends and family members may be even more frightened than the patient during a hospital psychosis. It is important to remember that the condition is almost always temporary. The family may want to limit younger children's visitation times. You may have to find a way to explain their loved one`s strange behavior. It may be very confusing for a child to encounter a loved one whose personality has been temporarily changed.

Hospital psychosis is real. Your caregivers may not want to use that expression. It is not unusual for mild incidents of hospital psychosis to be left 'untreated'. This is because the return home usually brings about rapid recovery.