Understanding Psychology

Chapter 7: Altered States of Consciousness

Chapter Overviews

Consciousness is a state of awareness. Everything you think and feel is a part of your conscious world. Changing your mental process—by sleeping, meditating, undergoing hypnosis, or taking drugs—alters your state of consciousness. Chapter 7 explores altered states of consciousness.

Section 1 discusses sleep, an essential state of consciousness, and describes theories of sleep, the stages of sleep, sleep disorders, and the role of dreams.

Section 2 describes altered states of consciousness that can occur while we are awake, such as hypnosis, biofeedback, and meditation. Therapists use hypnosis to change behaviors, to lessen patients' pain, and to help patients gain insight into problems. Biofeedback is used to teach a person to control physiological processes. Studies have suggested that the regular practice of meditation is physically relaxing and can lead to changes in behavior.

Section 3 examines psychoactive drugs and how they interact with the central nervous system to alter consciousness. Psychoactive drugs discussed include marijuana, LSD, opiates, and alcohol. The chapter concludes with the definition of drug abuse and its treatment.

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