What is confusion?
Being confused means that a person is:
- unable to think clearly
- uncertain what is happening around them
- unsure what day or what time it is.
Causes of confusion
Confusion, or being confused, is often associated with growing older.
However, this is not always the case and a number of other factors may cause confusion:
- drinking too much alcohol
- side-effects of some medicines
- using some recreational (illegal) drugs
- taking too much medicine or drugs (an overdose)
- lack of oxygen to the brain
- head injury or concussion
- vitamin deficiencies
- lack of sleep
- hypothermia – a severe drop in body temperature
- some mental health conditions.
Confusion can be a temporary state, but sometimes it’s a permanent condition caused by a medical condition, such as:
- epilepsy or seizures
- (low or high blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia), particularly in people with diabetes
- poor kidney function
- Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
If you suspect any of these conditions it’s important that you seek medical advice.
The symptoms of confusion may come on quickly or develop over time (more so in older people) and can range from fairly mild to severe. They include:
- unusual behaviour or mood swings
While it’s important to find out the cause of the confusion, the information in the 'Confusion treatments' section may be helpful to help ease symptoms.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your confusion, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015