A new backgrounder from the Treatment Advocacy Center identifies a growing body of scientific study confirming that the condition known as “anosognosia” – lack of awareness of illness – results from structural damage to the areas of the brain involved in self-awareness.
Anosognosia has been described by neurologists for more than a century in occasional patients with stroke or other neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's disease. Its presence in some individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder has only more recently been studied. The emergence of magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) and other advanced technologies has made it possible to investigate whether the condition is associated with identifiable changes to the brain’s structure.
“The Anatomical Basis of Anosognosia” identified 15 studies that reported statistically significant relationships between the anatomical structure of the brain and the neurological syndrome whose name comes from the Greek words for disease (nosos) and knowledge (gnosis) and literally means “to not know a disease.” Three studies were identified that found no connection.
The analysis by E. Fuller Torrey, MD, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, represents the first published summary of recent scientific research into lack of awareness (also known as "lack of insight") in individuals with psychosis in general and schizophrenia in particular.
Anosognosia is believed to be the single largest reason why individuals with the most severe mental illnesses do not take prescribed medications that would diminish or eliminate psychiatric symptoms. It affects an estimated 40% of those with bipolar disorder and 50% of those with schizophrenia.
Click here to read or download “The Anatomical Basis of Anosognosia.” For links to additional information about the syndrome, visit our anosognosia page. To see how anosognosia manifests in someone with active symptoms, watch our “Anosognosia” video on YouTube.