Difference Between Unconscious and Subconscious

Unconscious and subconscious are frequently used interchangeably although there are differences between unconscious and subconscious. In psychology, our mind is divided into 3 main parts. Listing them from the surface of the mind in to the deep; they are conscious, subconscious, and unconscious. Many psychologists have defined them in different ways and in medical terminology “unconscious” gives a total different meaning.


In terms of medicine, unconscious means a mental state where a person is not responding to external stimuli. This state should not be mistaken to an altered consciousness such as sleep or hypnotic state. There can be many reasons for one to be unconscious such as brain injuries, cardiac arrest, alcohol and sedative drugs, and fatigue. In psychological terms, unconscious is the deepest stage of one’s mind. This stage is not easy to be accessed and works as a layer of thoughts which absorbs repressed memories; not necessarily bad ones. To be able to know unconscious memories special therapy is required. According to Carl Jung unconscious mind is divided into 2 parts. One is personal unconscious, which contains all personal memories, and the other is collective unconscious, which contains shared ideas in anyone generally irrespective of one’s background or culture. He also explains unconscious mind as storage for socially unacceptable thoughts, painful memories, hidden desires, and wishes etc.


Subconscious mind is the stage of mind between the conscious mind and unconscious mind. It does not have an exact definition. Subconscious mind is easily accessible compared to the unconscious mind because the memories it holds are not very deep. It is found that the subconscious mind can be manipulated using special techniques to enhance personal success.

Subconscious is not a term in psychoanalytical writing because it is misleading and may be incorrectly understood as unconscious mind. It is safe to say that the subconscious mind holds information absorbed by the conscious mind and when conscious mind overloads they are deposited in the subconscious mind for later use. The information it contains may not be well organized and, therefore, need cognitive processing before it is used up for something by the conscious mind. For an example, trying to recall a phone number may take a while and remember certain incidents or connections to that particular number, but with some effort a person may remember the numbers sequentially because it was buried in the subconscious mind. When a person is using memory or information related to subconscious mind we see it as acting “instinctively”.

Unconscious vs Subconscious

• Unconscious mind is the deepest stage of mind and subconscious mind is the stage between the conscious mind and unconscious mind.

• Unconscious mind contains repressed thoughts and memories like traumatic experiences, socially unacceptable thoughts, deepest dreams and desires etc., but subconscious mind contains information that is stored when the conscious mind gets overload and wants to preserve for later use.

• Unconscious mind is difficult to access because a person’s awareness of what it holds is very low, but the subconscious mind is relatively easy to access.

• In order to get to know or bring out something from the unconscious mind, special therapy and techniques are required while, to bring out something from the subconscious mind, it may take a while and a bit of brainstorming although relatively the effort is less.