Mental disorders can also affect our ability to maintain consciousness.
Attention is one of the most basic cognitive processes, since it allows to focus mental resources on specific foci in order to carry out other psychological operations, such as the perception of stimuli from the environment. Different types of alterations, both organic based and lacking in it, can cause alterations in this function.
In this article we will describe the characteristics of the 11 main attention disorders. Most of them fall into the category of hypoprosexias (attention deficit disorders), although it is also important to mention hyperprosexias, aprosexias, paraprosexias and pseudoaprosexias.
The main disorders of attention
Psychopathological disorders of attention are generally classified according to how they affect this cognitive function: specifically, we speak of aprosexia, hyperprosexia or hypoprosexia, among other terms, depending on whether they involve the increase, decrease or absence of resources attention. In any case, these concepts are somewhat confusing.
Hypoprosexias, characterized by reduced ability to attend to stimuli, are the most common attention disorders. Within this category we find phenomena such as distractibility, emotional attentive lability, attention inhibition, neglect syndrome, attention fatigue, apathy or perplexity.
Aprosexia is defined as the total absence of attention ; in this sense, we could say that it constitutes an extreme form of hypoprosexia. The phenomenon of stupor, in which the person does not respond to almost any type of stimulation and which is associated with psychosis, epilepsy, the consumption of toxins and brain injuries, is the best example of aprosexia.
In the literature on psychopathology of attention, this term is used to refer to cases that apparently correspond to the signs of aprosexia, but which do not nevertheless imply true alterations in attention. Thus, pseudoaprosexias are framed in hysterical and simulation contexts, fundamentally.
We speak of hyperprosexia when, within the framework of a transitory alteration of consciousness (mainly caused by manic episodes or drug use), there is an intensification and / or an excessive focus of attention, frequently accompanied by hypervigilance and hyperlucency . Like hypoprosexia, it destabilizes attention and impairs performance.
This concept is used to describe two different types of disturbances. Karl Jaspers spoke of paraprosexia as the anomalous direction of attention that occurs in disorders such as hypochondria, in which excess concern for certain physical signs can increase them. Other authors consider that paraprosexia is similar to attentional instability.
In psychopathological contexts such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, manic episodes or twilight states typical of epilepsy, there is marked instability of the attention focus. In this sense, distraction is a type of hypoprosexia, as are the rest of the disorders that we will mention.
6. Attentive emotional lability
The context “emotional attentive lability” is used in a very specific way to define alterations in the stability and performance of attention that derive from states of intense anxiety, for example those that could occur in disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder .
7. Inattention or inhibition of attention
In these cases, the term refers to the reduction of the ability to direct attention to a specific focus. Inhibition of attention can have an organic origin (in which case it usually leads to disorientation and memory problems) or it can be psychological, as in melancholic depression and chronic psychoses.
8. Attentional fatigue
Post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression, brain tumors and infections, or neurodegenerative disorders, especially dementias, frequently cause deficits in attentional functions. People with attentional fatigue tend to feel tired in general and have memory problems.
9. Apathetic inattention
We find manifestations of attentional apathy in very different contexts: in conditions of intense fatigue and sleep, due to malnutrition, misuse of certain psychoactive substances, in diffuse neurodegenerative disorders or in asthenic-apathetic states. In some cases it is simply attributed to the personality of the subject.
In the area of psychopathology of attention, the term “perplexity” defines a type of qualitative alteration of this function that implies an inability to give meaning to the stimuli that are perceived, as well as to their own behaviors. Although it is a highly questioned concept, it could be applied to phenomena such as twilight states.
11. Neglect syndrome
The left spatial hemineglect syndrome (or simply “neglect syndrome”) is a very particular brain disorder that appears as a consequence of focal lesions in the right hemisphere of the brain. The most representative symptoms include spatial neglect, inattention, and akinesia for one half of the body or visual field.
- Froján, MX and Santacreu, J. (1999). What is a psychological treatment. Madrid: New Library.
- Gavino, A. (2002). Help Guide for the Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. Madrid: Pyramid.
- Luciano, MC (1996). Manual of clinical psychology. Childhood and adolescence. Valencia: Promolibro.