A confusional arousal is an instance when a person awakens in a confused or “foggy” state. The person may act in a strange way and may even show signs of aggression to the people nearby, and the person will not remember his or her actions after the instance of confusional arousal passes.
Although waking up in a relatively confused state is not necessarily rare, confusional arousal sleep disorders which result in aggressive behavior and that occur in adults are considered rare. This sleep disorder is somewhat common among children and even into the teenage years, but when it affects a person who is well into the adult years it becomes a rare disorder.
Confusional arousals can be harmless episodes that involve the person stumbling around without much regard for the environment, and perhaps even slurring words or ignoring other people.
In essence, the person appears to everyone else to not really “be present” even though the person is physically there. This is different from sleepwalking and talking while sleeping because the person is not necessarily asleep. On the other hand, a person within a confusional arousal episode may not be fully awake either.
When behavior becomes violent and aggressive during confusional arousals, the disorder becomes a real concern. People in this state have been known to lash out at people for no reason, and might even attack a loved one who tries to interact with them while they are stumbling around in a confused state. Spouses are commonly the people who force people with this disorder to seek out treatment because the spouses have firsthand experience with how violent a person with this disorder can be.
Some spouses may even fear for their own safety when their spouses who may be relatively agreeable or even docile during waking hours suddenly turn into raging aggressors when in a confusional arousal state.
This rare sleep disorder is treated in a few different ways. Doctors first rule out any other factors that may be causing the aggressive behavior. People who take certain drugs or medication may be displaying aggressive tendencies as a result of the chemicals.
Some people displaying these behaviors do not have a sleep disorder, but instead have a mental health issue that needs to be treated by a mental health professional. It may be something as simple as excessive stress or something as intricate as a dissociative disorder. The only way to find out is to visit a doctor and get evaluated.
People suffering from confusional arousals are commonly treated with prescription medications that are designed to regulate behavior and lessen aggressive tendencies. It’s important that people with this rare sleep disorder do not attempt to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs because these substances may actually make their behavior even worse.
Since people with this disorder truly have the potential to harm someone it is extremely important that they seek out medical care in order to receive the treatment necessary to stop the instances of confusional arousals. Otherwise, a person with this disorder might harm someone without even being aware of the event.
photo: Robert Couse-Baker , Creative Commons License