How is unconsciousness different from brain death in terms of feeling?

If the brain is deprived on oxygen (say by compressing carotids) for about 10 seconds, the person falls unconscious. Now if the supply is continually cut off for a few minutes, the person dies.

As far as the person’s mental state is concerned, is he as good as dead after falling unconscious? Can he snap back into consciousness in response to a painful stimulus for example, while being unconscious?

I’ve had dreams while fainted or under general anesthesia. So it is different than brain death.

As far as your 2nd question - with regards to pain stimuli, when fainted I could still feel sensation in my body (i.e., “I’m lying on the ground”), but under general anesthesia I could not (that is, after all, the purpose of such anesthesia, otherwise surgery would be excruciatingly painful) - so I suspect at that deeper level of unconsciousness, pain stimuli wouldn’t register at all.

what would occluded blood supply to brain count as?

There are varying degrees of consciousness that respond to different stimuli. Being “unconscious” is not like flipping a light switch. Doctors often use the Glasgow Coma Scale to assess how badly the patient’s consciousness is impaired, and a patient can show temporary improvement before sinking back into deeper unconsciousness.

There is no chart that says “X injury = Y effect.” Brain injuries are often unpredictable.

I read about Glasgow Coma Scale but it doesn’t say anything about what the person will perceive. For example, after decapitation, hands and legs might move, but it doesn’t mean the person felt it.

If you want to know what it’s like to be dead you can reflect on what it was like before you were born. You were “dead” in this sense for billions of years.

The reminds me of the poster from a few years ago that equated being unconscious during surgery to dying.


He made it through okay, but it was a rough 4 months while he posted away about his fears prior to having his surgery.

I have a strong vasovagal reaction to blood draws (not all shots, just blood draws). Blood vessels dilate and I pass right out from losing blood flow to the brain, usually for 10-30 seconds.

The unusual thing is that, when I come around (after lying down/having feet elevated), for the first 10-20 seconds I have absolutely no memory. I don’t know who I am, who the doctor standing over me is, where I am, etc. Then it comes back, literally with a “rush”. It’s a very very different mental sensation than anesthetic, sleeping, etc. that makes me think “this is what death is like.”

I might be wrong but it sounds like you are trying to make suicide plans. Please don’t do this, no problem is worth dying over.

The few times I’ve passed out…same sensation. First is a complete sense of “tabula rasa.” A mild bewilderment, not know where I am, what’s going on, etc. Then it comes back, and “rush” is the right word for it!

At some levels of ordinary sleep, there is still a sense of the passage of time. I can program myself to wake from a nap after an hour. But at some other, deeper levels of sleep, there is no sense of time. I can go deeply asleep, wake up again, and have absolutely no idea what the hour is.

I’ll second this. Life has its flaws and drawbacks, but death takes away all remaining options. Even when things seem rotten, there are still joys and rewards.

(“I can’t die yet. I haven’t seen The Jolson Story!”)

Not to some people with clinical depression, whose illness prevents them from feeling joy or any sense of reward from life experience.

Clinical depression comes in a very broad spectrum; almost no-one has depression so severe that there are no moments of joy. You paint with too broad a brush if you use depression as a synonym for “life is worthless, and death is preferable.” That might apply to one patient in a thousand, but not everyone with diagnosed depression.

It is a lot more than “one patient in a thousand”. Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide. (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).

Okay, yeah, my number is too low…

However, I can vouch from personal experience that not all suicides are by people who have no joy in life. Maybe not enough joy, or too much pain, or (perhaps saddest) too mentally ill to appreciate life, but all but the very worst cases still have some level of enjoyment.

Did I say everyone? Too bad there is no way to go back and look at it again.

Ambiguous phrasing: I took the “some” to refer to “some people” but the part about “…clinical depression, whose illness prevents them from feeling joy…” as being universal. Some people suffer from clinical depression, which prevents any feeling of joy.

That may not have been what you meant, but it is one valid way to read what you wrote. I’m sorry if I got it wrong, but it’s partly your fault too.

Just because you try to commit suicide doesn’t mean you have no joy. As someone who struggles with depression it is easy to lose perspective and to forget the good and get trapped in the bad. If I didn’t have my wife and children to ground me I probably wouldn’t be here today.

Well, I hope you can work with your depression, stay grounded in your family, and enjoy those good parts of life that exist between the bad parts. My mother shot herself on Easter Sunday in 1980, after fighting a very long battle against critical depression. It’s rough, and I’ve never really known how to judge her.

Anyway, going back to principal topic, I think that being dead is probably very much like being very deeply asleep, the sort of sleep where you don’t dream, and are not aware, in any way, of the passage of time.

Essentially…annihilated. “Not being.” And…forever.

(Another thing that helps keep me alive is…there isn’t any “good” way to kill oneself. Like the Dorothy Parker poem: all of the conventional ways are icky. There isn’t any magic “secret agent” poison pill that kills instantly and painlessly. If life could be switched off, like flipping a light switch, I’d probably be dead today. So…I am very thankful it doesn’t work that way!)

I weep for the future of debate on these boards, when words are twisted to mean what ever they are wanted to mean.