The Twilight State: What is it and What are its Effects?

October 3, 2018

Consciousness is a complex cognitive process. It has a lot of interesting topics that catch the attention of professionals in psychology, like some disorders that are able to alter human consciousness. One of the most studied ones is the twilight state.

Disorders such as epilepsy or substance abuse are associated with the onset of the twilight state. This state is a constriction of consciousness. Additionally, it’s usually accompanied by involuntary or compulsive movements. The subject rarely remembers what happens while they are in this state.

The twilight state

The twilight state is a temporary disturbance of consciousness, attention, and also of cognitive functions. Therefore, it’s characterized by strong mental confusion, a depletion of sensation, spatial and temporal disorientation, amnesia, and involuntary and impulsive movements.

The Twilight state can be painful.

The twilight state can vary in its severity as well as in its characteristics. Thus, we can find a complete alteration of consciousness or certain attention or cognitive function deficits. The great number of processes implicated in consciousness cause this variance. Therefore, depending on the damaged function, the subject will show different symptoms.

This disorder is not isolated, it’s usually part of the symptoms of a wider pathology. Seizure disorders and substance abuse are the most relevant ones. Nevertheless, it’s important to mention that the twilight state and its symptoms could signal an onset of different types of brain injuries.

The twilight state usually develops with a sudden onset, with no prior warnings. Later, it continues during an irregular period, which depends largely on the patient. In this sense, it could last a few hours or up to a few days in severe cases. Lastly, the twilight state has a clear end, when the patient returns to their normal state.

Therefore, the main characteristics of the twilight state are its abrupt start and end. A fitting comparison may be that of a flick of a power switch, turning a light on and off.

Symptoms of the twilight state

These are the most relevant symptoms that define this disorder:

  • Significant constriction of consciousness. The patient’s brain waves are in an extremely low state of wakefulness.
  • Severe attention alteration. The subject is barely capable of reacting to stimuli during the episode.
  • Involuntary or impulsive movements. Hand gestures and facial muscle contractions appear along with other behaviors such as the impulse to walk. Curiously, these movements aren’t motivated by a particular goal. They simply happen in a repetitive and senseless way.
  • Temporary amnesia. Patients are incapable of remembering the episode. However, if they do remember, they only remember parts of what happened.
  • Possible hallucinations or delusions. Some patients experience auditive and visual hallucinations, along with incoherent thoughts as delusions.
  • Total disorientation in the patient. The subject is totally disorientated. They don’t know where they are or what time it is.
  • The patient has a different attitude. They may seem sweaty, agitated, and aggressive.
Out of character behavior is experienced in the Twilight state.

The twilight state presents itself in diverse psychological and psychiatric disorders that most people don’t know about. As a matter of fact, research into this alteration of consciousness could bring about valuable information.

Knowing the causes, symptoms, and the consequences of the twilight state could bring us closer to finding ways to treat or cure it. This will consequently allow patients to have a better quality of life.

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  • Willi, J. (1968). Delirio, estado crepuscular y confusión en los enfermos somáticos. W. and B. Bleuler (Eds.), Sındromes psıquicos agudos en las enfermedades somáticas, 33-48.