WHAT IS ANOSOGNOSIA?
Anosognosia (pronounced uh-no-sog-noh-zee-uh) is a greek word that directly translates to "not know a disease". It is caused by damage to the brain in association with other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Listed below are frequently asked questions about anosognosia from the Treatment Advocacy Center.
What is Anosognosia?
Anosognosia is a result of anatomical damage to a person's brain that inhibits the person from recognizing their own illness. This condition has often been referred to as "lack of awareness" or "lack of insight". Anosognosia is one of the main reasons why people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses refuse or discontinue treatment.
How is Anosognosia different from denial?
Denial is psychological. Anosognosia is biological. A person in denial may be talked out of denial, a person with anosognosia cannot be reasoned with or talked out of having anosognosia, it is a result of actual damage to the brain. The figure to the right displays an MRI of a person with anosognosia (A) compared to a person with good insight (B). Red indicates brain activity. These images provide physical evidence of how people with anosognosia have less activity in key areas of the brain which leads to their inability to properly organize and intepret information.
Click here to read more about the anatomical basis of anosognosia.
MRI scan of a brain with low self-reflection/insight (anosognosia) vs. a brain with high self-reflection/insight
Who is affected by Anosognosia?
Studies have shown that around 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% of those with bipolar disorder have some form of anosognosia. A percentage of alzheimers and stroke patients can also be affected. Unfortunately, caregivers of these individuals are the ones that are often the most affected by the disease. For more information about what caregivers can do to help a loved one with anosognosia, visit our Resources page.
Can Anosognosia be treated?
Studies show that awareness can improve with the help of certain antipsychotic medication. However, results vary greatly based on the individual, the medication and the level of damage to the brain at the time treatment began. More research on anosognosia and mental illness is needed to identify prevention of these conditions and different treatment options. Click here to learn more about current advancements in mental health and how you can support further research to cure these diseases.
How can I help someone who has Anosognosia?
This is one of the biggest questions in mental health policy today and unfortunately one of the hardest to answer. Because someone with anosognosia genuinely lacks the ability to comprehend their sickness, caregivers and family members should resist arguing with or trying to convince the person that they are ill. As difficult as it may be, family members and caregivers should try to exhibit as much compassion and patience wth the individual as possible while seeking outside resources to help their loved one's specific situation. Visit our Resources page to read more about the different programs that are currently available.