Altered Mental Status

Altered mental status refers to an abnormal change in your thinking, responsiveness and awareness of your environment. It usually comes on suddenly and can affect your speech, thoughts, movements, memory, or alertness. It can range from slight confusion to complete unresponsiveness.

An altered mental status can be a sign of a serious medical or mental health condition. It is important to be evaluated by a doctor immediately.

Symptoms of an altered mental status can include:

  • Poor thinking or memory
  • Disorientation – not knowing who or where you are
  • Difficulty speaking or rambling speech
  • Inability to stay focused
  • Seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Restless or agitation
  • Extreme anxiety or paranoia
  • Abrupt personality change

Possible causes include:

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or diabetes
  • Dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance
  • Stroke or dementia
  • A brain injury or tumor
  • Drug or alcohol overdose
  • Exposure to a toxin or poison
  • Low oxygen level (hypoxia)
  • Infection (especially urinary tract infections in older adults)
  • Seizure
  • Heart attack
  • Too high or too low body temperature


It is extremely important to get fast diagnosis and treatment for an altered mental state. Hospitalization and medication may be required.

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Treatments for Altered Mental Status

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Symptoms and Screenings for Altered Mental Status

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Causes and Preventions for Altered Mental Status

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Education and Resources for Altered Mental Status

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Support groups for Altered Mental Status

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Learn More about Altered Mental Status

Vidant Health can connect you to health care professionals to help you understand your condition and guide you through the treatment process. Let’s chat.

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