Altered Mental Status

Marissa Beal, DO, Yelena Gimelshteyn, M.D., Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.
Altered Mental Status is a topic covered in the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide.

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DEFINITION

  • “Altered mental status” is a vague, often misleading description that encompasses a host of presentations that include changes in cognition, mood, behavior and/or level of arousal such as:
    • Coma
    • Stupor
    • Delirium and/or encephalopathy
    • Dementia or other neurocognitive disorders
    • Acute worsening of psychiatric illness
  • There is a spectrum of acute brain dysfunction including coma, stupor, and delirium which include impairment of consciousness[1].
  • Consciousness is further delineated into content (cognitive function mediated by cortical brain areas) and arousal (wakefulness mediated by reticular activating system)[2].

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DEFINITION

  • “Altered mental status” is a vague, often misleading description that encompasses a host of presentations that include changes in cognition, mood, behavior and/or level of arousal such as:
    • Coma
    • Stupor
    • Delirium and/or encephalopathy
    • Dementia or other neurocognitive disorders
    • Acute worsening of psychiatric illness
  • There is a spectrum of acute brain dysfunction including coma, stupor, and delirium which include impairment of consciousness[1].
  • Consciousness is further delineated into content (cognitive function mediated by cortical brain areas) and arousal (wakefulness mediated by reticular activating system)[2].

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Last updated: May 11, 2022