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What are the main symptoms of confusion?

Confusion can present itself differently from person to person, with symptoms varying from being unable to make decisions or concentrate on tasks, to disorientation and memory loss.

If you or someone you know is struggling to remember things, is having issues with concentration or has periods of disorientation, it is a good idea to speak to a doctor to find out the cause and get treatment.

Confusion can often be the result of an undiagnosed medical condition, or even due to some medications, which is why it’s good to get medical advice – they can investigate as to why the confusion is happening.

Symptoms can include some or all of the following:

  • Long pauses during speech
  • Difficulty in finding words or the right words
  • Lack of awareness of the time or location
  • Inability to concentrate on a task
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Abnormal speech
  • Disorientation
  • Memory loss - including not recognising people or calling them the wrong name
  • Increased anxiety

Noticing these symptoms as early as possible will help you or your loved one get treatment as early as possible.

If you recognise these symptoms in yourself, it’s a good idea to speak to family or friends so that they can help you get the treatment that you may need.

When to see a doctor about confusion

If signs of confusion are being shown, you should seek medical attention quickly.

If the confusion comes on suddenly, particularly after a head injury, take the person to the nearest hospital or call 999 urgently, especially if they are displaying other symptoms, such as blue lips or a high fever.

If the person who is confused is diabetic, you need to check their blood sugar level if you can, as high or low blood sugar could be causing the confusion.

If you know how to, check their blood sugar and if their levels are low, give them something sugary – a drink, sweets or snack will do – and wait 10 minutes before testing again. If they don’t improve, take them to the hospital or call 999.

If their blood sugar is high, it’s best to take them to hospital or call 999.

You can find the target blood sugar levels here.

If you can’t check their blood sugar, get medical help.

How confusion can affect your day-to-day life

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing confusion, this can impact day to day life in a number of ways.

It could be that the confusion is making it hard for your or them to take care of yourself, or extra help may be needed.

Work tasks may become harder and relationships can become more difficult to maintain as symptoms progress.

Forgetfulness and disorientation can be a distressing symptom of confusion and may lead to feelings of isolation or depression.