An IED blast hit Owen’s vehicle so hard that his head crashed against a hatch. Diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, he became angry and frustrated, because it was harder for him to do some of the things he used to easily do. Once he connected with VA, he found that many of his difficulties – and his anger – could be overcome.
What is confusion?
Are you having difficulty with tasks that are usually easy for you but now you can’t seem to understand how to do them anymore? Does it seem like remembering common information, like what day it is or how to tell time, is more challenging than it used to be? Is it hard to recall where your family members are when you’re not with them, even though you used to easily keep track of their whereabouts? If situations like these seem familiar, you might be dealing with confusion.
Confusion is a mental state in which you may be less alert, have memory loss, or get flustered and jumbled easily. Some Veterans experience confusion as a result of getting older, significant sleep problems, or health conditions like dementia or traumatic brain injury. A normal example of confusion, like forgetting the date but remembering it later without assistance, is not a major cause for concern. Other episodes of confusion, like forgetting where you are going in your car while driving, may signal a problem.
“I couldn’t remember certain things and I got all stressed. It became a vicious cycle because my stress would just make me more frustrated and more tense.”
Confusion and forgetfulness can affect your work, your daily life, and your relationships with family members, close friends, and coworkers. Some Veterans who experience confusion may find they have trouble solving simple problems, remembering details, or organizing their thoughts. Others may become paranoid and believe that people are out to get them, because they don’t remember who they are or what their relationship is to them.
If I’m experiencing confusion, what can I do about it right away?
- Try to slow down and focus on the task at hand
- Do everyday tasks in the same order each time
- Keep a calendar or schedule, and make lists
- Use memory tricks like repeating people’s names or retracing your steps
- Find ways to reduce your stress such as by taking slow, deep breaths
- Put things like your keys and glasses in the same place after using them
- Take regular breaks to prevent feeling tired and overwhelmed
- Avoid drinking alcohol, which can make confusion worse
“I could hear myself stumble on words. I would forget things and I would get frustrated. It made me angry with myself and sometimes with my family.”
Don’t shy away from discussing your confusion with family and close friends. When you’re ready to talk about what you’re experiencing, turn to them, so they may provide you with support and help you manage your confusion. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist and review the dosages of your prescriptions to make sure they are not contributing to the problem.
Take the next step – Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans connect with useful resources and effective treatments for dealing with symptoms like confusion. If confusion is affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
- Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
- A mental health professional, such as a therapist
- Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
- A spiritual or religious advisor
Explore these resources for more information about confusion in Veterans.
Learn more about the possible associations between confusion and other issues such as aging, stress and anxiety, and the effects of traumatic brain injury.
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.
National Center for PTSD
This website provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans dealing with the effects of trauma, such as confusion.