The majority of people can identify when their physical or mental health changes. However, when they cannot do so, anosognosia might be the reason.
When you have this condition, a significant gap exists between how you see your mental health and how others do.
It is unclear for both those who experience it and those who witness it. However, it is manageable if a treatment strategy is in place.
Let’s first understand what exactly it is.
It is a condition when someone has a mental health problem but doesn’t realize it. These individuals might have symptoms, but they don’t see how serious it is, or sometimes they don’t even know they have a problem. It’s not their fault; it’s because of their condition. This “lack of self-awareness” can make it hard for them to get the right help or treatment.
In this blog, we will discuss its causes, symptoms, and treatments. However, before we explore it further, let’s delve into its origin. It would help you understand this condition better.
Anosognosia Word Origin
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), it is a Greek word that means “not to know a disease.”
It is a condition where you cannot identify any existing medical condition or issues. Experts called it “denial or deficit” or “lack of insight.” It belongs to the family of disorders known as “agnosias,” which all occur when the brain cannot process or interpret what the senses tell it.
Moreover, according to a trusted source, a neurologist “Joseph Babinski” first named the term in 1914 as he observed that some of his patients appeared unaware of how their mental and physical capabilities had changed after surviving a stroke.
Now that we have uncovered the origins of the term anosognosia, let’s dive into what causes this condition.
What Causes Anosognosia?
It is not a standalone condition. It is a symptom of an underlying issue. It often occurs in two situations. Such as,
This condition can result from brain injuries, strokes, brain tumors, and infections. These types of damage can affect specific brain regions responsible for self-awareness.
Mental Health Disorders
Conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can also lead to anosognosia. These conditions make individuals unaware of the severity of their mental health symptoms.
Now, moving forward, let’s shift your attention to what anosognosia looks like. These are the things you can notice to understand it better.
What are the Symptoms of Anosognosia?
It often leads people to ignore or misunderstand their medical issues. They might excuse their symptoms or try to hide them, even though they sometimes recognize some of the symptoms.
The following are the common symptoms of this condition:
Lack of Awareness
It means an individual affected with this condition doesn’t recognize they have an illness or medical problem. These individuals may genuinely believe that they are perfectly healthy despite the apparent symptoms of their medical condition.
For example, a person with anosognosia related to a stroke may not accept the paralysis or speech difficulties resulting from the stroke. This condition is also called anosognosia after stroke.
They may not understand or acknowledge the seriousness of their condition, sometimes avoiding the truth, consciously or unconsciously.
It can appear in a few ways:
- Not Realizing the Severity: They might not understand how bad their illness is. They might also think it’s not a big deal.
- Avoiding the Truth: Some people ignore the truth about their condition. They do this to protect themselves from scary information.
- Making Up Stories: In some cases, people with serious denial make up memories or explanations to fill in gaps in their memory. They are not trying to lie, but it helps them make sense of things when they can’t fully understand how serious their situation is.
Someone with anosognosia may refuse to talk about their medical condition or any symptoms they might have. They might strongly resist the idea of getting medical treatment or help. It happens because they can’t accept that they have a health problem.
Medication discontinuation is when affected individuals stop taking their prescribed medications. They might believe that pills are unnecessary.
Affected individuals may feel that people are lying or making it up regarding their medical condition.
For example, a person with anosognosia might experience a severe health issue. Still, when told about it by doctors or family members, they accuse those around them of not telling the truth or faking the information. This behaviour occurs because their brain struggles to process the data and accept that they have a health problem.
6. Varying Levels of Awareness of Symptoms
Individuals affected with this condition may not consistently accept the presence and severity of their symptoms. This awareness can fluctuate over time. It means that there are moments when they might seem to understand their condition and moments when they don’t.
For instance, one study found that approximately 25% of older adults with schizophrenia experienced fluctuations in their understanding of the illness, especially as they aged.
Moreover, People with Anosognosia often say things like:
- “If I had an issue, I’d know about it.”
- “I can handle things on my own.”
- “Why should I take medication?”
Thus, these conditions can make it hard for people to understand their health problems. To help them, we need to be understanding and gentle in our approach.
But it’s essential to know that Anosognosia is not just a simple lack of awareness. It’s a complex challenge that blurs the line between understanding and denial.
These phrases can create a significant barrier between a caregiver and a patient. So, how can you help someone you care about who doesn’t realize they have a health issue?
But don’t worry. We have researched and written some tips for you below. These tips will be helpful to support your loved one dealing with this condition.
How to Help Someone with Anosognosia?
If someone you care about is dealing with this condition, you may experience confusion, sadness, or frustration. These are natural reactions when you see a loved one not caring for themselves.
When considering ways to support them, keep these tips in mind:
Understand That Anosognosia is Not a Choice
It’s important to understand that it is not something your loved one chooses to do. The person is not intentionally denying their symptoms; instead, it’s a symptom of their medical condition.
In other words, they’re not doing it deliberately to be complicated or avoid treatment. Anosognosia is a genuine part of their illness that affects their self-awareness and perception.
Approach with Compassion
When dealing with this, it’s essential to approach the situation with compassion. Treat it like any other medical condition, and respond with empathy and understanding.
It means showing care and consideration to your loved one struggling to accept the symptoms. Rather than frustration or impatience, offer support and help them manage their condition and the treatment process.
It’s essential to be patient when helping someone with this condition. Understanding a person with anosognosia’s path to recovery may take time. So, keep supporting them with patience as they gradually come to terms with their condition
It means that when dealing with a loved one who has anosognosia, it’s best not to engage in confrontations or disagreements about their condition. While you might keep records of their symptoms for your reference or to discuss with doctors, it’s important to remember that their lack of awareness about their condition is not a personal choice.
Instead of arguing or trying to convince them, it’s better to approach the situation with patience and empathy. The focus should be on providing support and understanding rather than arguing.
Arguments can be counterproductive and potentially distressing for your loved one.
Remember, It’s a Medical Condition
It would help if you kept in mind that Anosognosia is not an intentional choice on the part of the individual. It results from their underlying medical condition.
Understanding this is important because it helps approach the situation with empathy and compassion.
So these are the tips to assist someone with this condition. Let’s now shift our focus to understanding anosognosia treatments.
What are the Treatments for Anosognosia?
Treating this mental health condition depends on the cause of the disease. Moreover, managing this condition involves addressing the underlying condition.
While there isn’t a specific treatment for anosognosia itself, Here are some strategies that can help:
Suppose an individual has conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Then, Individuals might benefit from medication to manage their symptoms. It won’t fix anosognosia directly, but it can make things better.
In other words, medications can manage the primary conditions’ symptoms and eventually make the person’s experience better.
For example, if someone with schizophrenia takes medication, it can help reduce the severity of their hallucinations or delusions, making it easier for them to engage in conversations about their condition.
Talking to a therapist can help people become more aware of their condition. It’s like having conversations to understand what’s going on.
Moreover, the therapist helps them understand their condition and how it affects them. Affected Individuals can talk about their feelings and experiences. By doing this, they may start to realize their situation. The therapist guides them and offers support to become more aware of what’s happening. Thus, it will be a significant step toward accepting their illness and managing anosognosia.
Learning and Support
Everyone, including the person with anosognosia and their family, can learn more about it. Support groups can be like a friendly place to share experiences and advice.
Here, You can meet other individuals facing similar challenges. Moreover, you can exchange ideas and offer support. Thus, in these supportive communities, you can help each other to cope with this condition.
The caretaker should ensure the person takes their prescribed medication properly and regularly. It is essential to manage their condition effectively. Moreover, it will also help in the best possible results from treatment.
Sometimes, extra care is needed to keep the person safe since they may not realize the risks.
In anosognosia, we found a hidden struggle. But remember, knowing and helping can make a difference. Understanding and kindness can light the way for those who face it.