What is confusion?
Are you having difficulty with tasks that were previously easy but are now difficult to do and even understand? Does it seem like remembering basic information, like what day it is or how to tell time, has become more challenging? Is it hard to recall where your family members are when you’re not with them, even though you could easily keep track of them in the past? If situations like these seem familiar, you might be having periods of confusion.
Confusion is a mental state in which you may feel less alert, or get flustered and jumbled easily. Some Veterans experience confusion as a result of getting older, from having sleep problems, or as part of health conditions like dementia or traumatic brain injury. A minor sign of confusion, like forgetting the date but remembering it later, is not a major cause for concern. However, ongoing episodes of confusion, like feeling disoriented for a period of time or forgetting where you are going when driving your car, 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 co-workers. 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 how they know each other.
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.
Openly discuss 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 to thoroughly review your medications and make sure that they are not contributing to the problem.
Take the next step: Make the connection.
Every day, Veterans who served in the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard 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 activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:
- Your doctor. Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does. If you feel comfortable enough with your physician, he or she may be able to help you find tools to manage confusion even without direct experience with Veterans.
- 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 adviser
Explore these resources for more information about Veterans experiencing confusion.
National Center for PTSD
This website provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans, their family and friends, and the public when dealing with trauma.
If you are a combat Veteran, you can 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. In addition, any Veteran who was sexually traumatized while serving in the military is eligible to receive counseling regardless of gender or era of service.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Confusion may be related to other health conditions that need attention. VA provides world-class health care to eligible Veterans. Most Veterans qualify for cost-free health care services, although some Veterans must pay modest copays for health care or prescriptions. Explore your eligibility for health care using VA's Health Benefits Explorer tool and find out more about the treatment options available to you.