4 critical facts about anosognosia

4 critical facts about anosognosia

Millions of people across the globe are struggling with mental problems, but because of stigma and discrimination attached to these illnesses, many people consciously prefer to remain in denial and as a result, reject the diagnosis and do not reach out for support. However, when one is afflicted with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder, it is possible that one might be unable to think clearly or perceive that there is some problem. This lack of insight is known as anosognosia, one of the worst symptoms of a mental illness. Some of the important facts about anosognosia are discussed here:

1. Lack of awareness: Millions of patients screened for schizophrenia or a bipolar disorder suffer from a lack of insight and believe that there is nothing wrong with them and as a result, they resist therapy. This condition is termed as anosognosia, which is derived from Greek words nosos meaning a disease or a disorder and gnosis meaning knowledge or awareness. Apparently, almost 50 percent people with schizophrenia and nearly 40 percent people with bipolar disorder are affected by this impaired awareness which results from the damage caused by some parts of the brain, especially the right hemisphere. People grappling with anosognosia experience delusions and hallucinations and perceive them to be real. The impaired awareness could be a complete lack of awareness and in some individuals, it could be partial as well, which means, they oscillate between the two types.

2. Neglecting medication: Much emphasis is given on this impaired awareness issue because this results in resistance to take medication by the patients who strongly believe that they are fine. The absence of medication can exacerbate the illness over a period which might result in accidents, emergency room visits, violent acts, crimes leading to incarceration, homelessness, etc.

3. Patient can be a threat: Family members, spouse or close friends of a person struggling with anosognosia must exercise a lot of patience because they need to understand and accept the fact that no one chooses this disorder by will. A loving family member or a friend can be instrumental in the recovery of a troubled person. Losing the mind and incessantly trying to convince a person will only make the sufferer more irritated. Nonetheless, if the efforts do not translate into the constructive outcomes, and the patient is a threat to self and others around, it is important for the caretakers to get him or her hospitalized.

4. Lacking insight: LEAP (Listen, empathize, agree, partnership) is generally advocated to be a useful strategy for handling people struggling with anosognosia. In this method, a loved one close to the sufferer can use four strategies to facilitate the development of an insight which might pave the way for recovery. The loved one must try to establish an open line of communication so that the anosognosia afflicted individual should feel at ease and gradually, safe in the knowledge that he/she can fearlessly talk about anything.

If a loved one can get this person to talk, it is a positive signal. Now, while the person with anosognosia is talking, it is important that the loved one should try to be a good listener.  The next step is about developing an agreement, which means, the loved one should tell the troubled person that they have understood the struggles and at the same time, should agree on issues which work or not work during the treatment. The last step is developing a partnership which should be empowering and morale boosting for the person in need of help. The troubled person will feel confident if the partnership fosters fearlessness, total acceptance and has no room for any misconceptions and judgments.

Road to recovery

Watching a loved one struggle with the crippling symptoms of a mental illness yet, refusing to seek treatment because of his or her lack of insight can get frustrating. Therefore, one should try to raise concerns with sensitivity and warmth, which might open the door of recovery for the former. However, if the efforts are of no avail, then it becomes important to get professional help.

If a loved one is suffering from any mental problem, contact the California Mental Health Helpline for advice on mental health treatment in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our specialists for information on the best mental health rehabilitation centers in California.

Also read:

Helping a loved one manage bipolar disorder

6 tips for a swift recovery from mental illness