Anosognosia - "lack of insight" or "lack of awareness" - is believed to be the single largest reason why individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder do not take their medications. A result of anatomical damage to the brain, it affects approximately 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% of individuals with bipolar disorder. When taking medications, awareness of illness improves in some patients.

anosognosia captureImpaired awareness of illness is a strange thing. To others, psychiatric symptoms seem so obvious it’s hard to believe the person experiencing them is not aware he/she is ill. Oliver Sacks, in his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, noted this problem: "It is not only difficult, it is impossible for patients with certain right-hemisphere syndromes to know their own problems.... And it is singularly difficult, for even the most sensitive observer, to picture the inner state, the 'situation' of such patients, for this is almost unimaginably remote from anything he himself has ever known."

Click here to for answers to these frequently asked questions about anosognosia:

  • What is impaired or lack of awareness of illness (also known as "lack of insight")?
  • How big a problem is it?
  • Is this a new problem? I've never heard of it before.
  • Is impaired awareness of illness the same thing as denial of illness?
  • Can a person be partially aware of his/her illness?
  • Are there ways to improve a person's awareness of illness?
  • Why is impaired awareness of illness important in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder?  

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