Loss of Orientation or Confusion

General or Other | - Others | Loss of Orientation or Confusion (Symptom)


Confusion is a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with his or her usual level of clarity. Sudden loss of orientation in adults is a quick onset of confusion to date, time, or place in an adult. Confusion as such is not synonymous with inability to focus attention, although severe inability to focus attention can cause, or greatly contribute to, confusion.

Together, confusion and inability to focus attention (both of which affect judgment) are the twin symptoms of a loss or lack of normal brain function (mentation). The milder degrees of confusion as pathological symptoms are relative to previous function. Thus (for example) a mathematician confused about manipulation of simple fractions may be showing pathology which would not be diagnosable in a person without training in this area. Thus, as with the case of delirium, the minor degrees of pathological confusion cannot be diagnosed without knowledge of a person baseline, or normal, level of mental functioning.


Confusion may result from drug side effects. Confusion may result from a relatively sudden brain dysfunction. Acute confusion is often called delirium (also called acute confusional state), although delirium also includes a broader array of disorders than confusion, e. g. inability to focus attention and various impairments in awareness and temporal and spatial orientation.

Confusion may also result from chronic organic brain pathologies such as dementia. In either case, confusion is usually associated with some degree of loss of ability to focus attention, but (as noted) the association is not invariable, especially for lesser degrees of impairment.