How is delirium diagnosed?

Healthcare providers look for problems with attention, memory, orientation and visual ability. Providers may ask the person to perform a few simple tasks, such as spelling a short word backward or doing a basic math problem.

A provider may diagnose delirium if the person:

  • Can’t focus or shift attention.
  • Has changes in thinking.
  • Has a rapid onset of thinking problems, which may change throughout the day.

What tests are used to diagnose delirium?

After asking about the person’s symptoms, healthcare providers do a physical exam. They may also use other tests to help identify a cause, including:

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/16/2020.


  • Delirium. Accessed 9/18/2020.
  • Merck Manual. Delirium. Accessed 9/18/2020.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. Delirium. Accessed 9/18/2020.

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