Confusion: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Confusion is a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with his or her usual level of clarity. Frequently, confusion leads to the loss of ability to recognize people and or places or tell time and the date. Feelings of disorientation are common in confusion, and decision-making ability is impaired.

Confusion may arise suddenly or develop gradually over time. Confusion has multiple causes, including injuries, medical conditions, medications, environmental factors, and substance abuse.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other causes of confusion

  • Carbon Monoxide Exposure
  • Delirium
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Electrolyte Imbalances
  • Hospitalization (Particularly in the Elderly)
  • Korsakoff Syndrome
  • Liver Failure
  • Medications
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Toxins
  • Wernicke’s Encephalopathy


Certain medications can cause confusion. Not taking medications as prescribed can also cause confusion, as can withdrawal from a medication that you recently stopped taking.

Confusion is the most common sign of medical complications related to cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, which uses chemicals to kill cancer cells, often affects healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Chemotherapy can cause damage to your nerves, which can affect your brain’s functions and cause confusion.

Opioid medications are another common cause of confusion due to medications, especially in older people. These are powerful drugs used to treat pain.

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