Conscious, Consciousness - Neuropedia

Conscious, Consciousness

Consciousness is the state of being conscious. It is an awareness of internal and external existence or the normal state of understanding what’s happening around you.

Consciousness or being conscious is also a sense of one’s personal or collective identity, including the “attitudes, beliefs, and sensitivities considered characteristic of an individual or group.” [1]

Consciousness refers to the individual awareness of unique thoughts, memories, feelings, sensations, and environments. It comes down to being aware of the self and the world around the self.

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud divided conscious awareness into three levels — the preconscious, conscious and unconscious.[2] 

  • The preconscious is anything that has the potential of being brought into the conscious mind.
  • The conscious mind is an accumulation of thoughts, memories, feelings, and wishes.
  • The unconscious mind is a collection of thoughts, feelings, urges, and memories outside of our conscious awareness.

Other common states of awareness are considered “altered” states of consciousness, usually caused by medications, drugs, or mental conditions that impair or change awareness. Altered states can change perception, thinking, understanding, and interpretations of the world. These types of consciousness include:[3] 

  • Coma
  • Delirium
  • Confusion
  • Stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Lethargy
  • Hallucinations

Several things can temporarily or permanently alter consciousness, including: 

  • Medications
  • Psychoactive drugs
  • Mental illness
  • Other types of illness
  • Dreams
  • Hypnosis
  • Meditation
  • Sleep

An assessment of the state of consciousness can help healthcare specialists decipher the presence of medical conditions. A sudden change to consciousness may be an indication of any of the following:

  • Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia
  • Aneurysm
  • Brain infections
  • Drug use
  • Brain injury
  • Epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Low blood sugar
  • Heatstroke
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Poisoning
  • Shock