An artistic impression of alcoholic delirium

The picture is from this month’s British Journal of Psychiatry and is entitled ‘Memory image of acute alcoholic delirium’.

It was included in a 1919 book of cases studies of people with alcoholic delirium, otherwise known as delirium tremens or the DTs, and was drawn by a patient to communicate their hallucinatory experiences.

Delirium is a mental state where hallucinations and delusions are present, but unlike psychosis, there are also severe impairments in consciousness and cognitive function.

It typically resolves quickly, usually when the physical disturbance that caused it (e.g. fever, intoxication) subsides.

The author of the book, the Danish psychiatrist Einar Brünniche, explains the image:

‘Finally, I should like to present an image, a reproduction of a coloured drawing, in which a patient, an artist, without words, but none the less very effectively and vividly, describes the memory of his past, alcoholic delirium… It shows us the many facets of hallucinations, their animal imagery, their life and mobility and their partial transformation of real objects; it shows us the air brimming with cobwebs, threads and smoke.

However, I should think that the image illustrates a stage at which the delirium has not yet reached its zenith since the patient is still bedridden. True, the hallucinations seem spooky, but they have not yet filled him with uncontrollable dread; he has not yet been stirred to action, he has not yet taken steps to ward off the danger. Besides, the picture speaks for itself’.

There’s more at in this brief ‘psychiatry in pictures’ article at the link below.

Link to British Journal of Psychiatry full image and article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: