Altered Mental Status: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

An alteration in mental status refers to general changes in brain function, such as confusion, amnesia (memory loss), loss of alertness, disorientation (not cognizant of self, time, or place), defects in judgment or thought, unusual or strange behavior, poor regulation of emotions, and disruptions in perception, psychomotor skills, and behavior. While an altered mental status is obviously characteristic of a number of psychiatric and emotional conditions, medical conditions and injuries that cause damage to the brain, including alcohol or drug overdose and withdrawal syndromes, can also cause mental status changes. Confusion, lethargy, delirium, dementia, encephalopathy, and organic brain syndrome are all terms that have been used to refer to conditions hallmarked by mental status changes.

Related Symptoms & Signs

Other causes of altered mental status

  • Brain Infections/Abscesses
  • Decompression Sickness
  • Drug Overdose
  • High Altitude Cerebral Edema
  • Infection of the Brain or CNS
  • Korsakoff Syndrome
  • Lipid Storage Diseases
  • Liver Failure
  • Medications
  • Poisoning
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Severe Hemorrhage
  • Thyroid Storm
  • Toxins
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Wernicke Syndrome
  • Wilson Disease
  • Withdrawal From Drug or Alcohol Dependence

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.