We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Privacy Policy


Resource type: Article

Paranoia, confusion or behaving out of character

Is it common to have been confused, paranoid or to have behaved out of character?

Yes, it is very common.Just as these things are very common in Intensive Care, patients often experience these symptoms in the first few days following transfer to the ward. You may have felt very confused (not quite knowing where you are or why), you may have felt that others were out to harm you (paranoia) or may have behaved completely out of character by perhaps being a little unreasonable, emotional or aggressive.Here are some short examples of what other patients told us....

 "..you’re not sure of what’s going on...you can’t remember what you remembered clearly...your memory’s unreliable and you can’t remember the last time you remembered something you could trust. If you see what I mean?"

"A male nurse came up to me and said, “Oh, you’re looking a lot better today. Fancy another round?” (mimicking a boxer) And I said, “Why?” He said, “Oooh, you didn’t half give it to me!” And I said, “Did I?” I thought, I can’t remember…I must’ve done something wrong..went a bit la la (laughs)"

"I was convinced that my wife was having an affair with the guy in the bed opposite me. I was so angry...and it was complete nonsense.My poor wife!"

Patients often tell us that they feel embarrassed by their out of character behaviour, but please be reassured that this is very common after Intensive Care and no one will think any less of you.

Why does it happen?

There are several reasons why this might happen, not least that you have been very ill. It can take a little time for the drugs you were given in Intensive Care to keep you sleepy and comfortable (sedatives) or any anaesthetics you may have had to clear from your system. You may also still be reliving or coming to terms with any strange or frightening dreams you had in Intensive Care. Resolving infection can also make people confused or behave out of character.

When will it get better?

These symptoms are usually very temporary or may fluctuate (be better at some points in the day and worse at others), generally improving over the course of a few days.