What is Anosognosia

There are times when a medical diagnosis is difficult to accept.  There does come a point where realization sets in and the individual assumes responsibility for any treatments or ability to deal with the diagnosis and move forward.

Anosognosia Definition

However, there are instances where the diagnostic information is denied to the point it becomes debilitating.  This is a mental condition called anosognosia.  This comes from a Greek word that roughly translates as “lack of awareness or insight”.


This is a real situation where the person cannot understand the realities of their own condition.  It won’t matter how many medical diagnoses are provided or the test results offered.  It simply is not accepted as fact.


The brain’s frontal lobe processes our constant change of self image.  Because change is a constant and our view of ourselves in relation to this change keeps adapting, the frontal lobe keeps changing itself to accommodate these alterations.  Eventually the ability to absorb the new information and adapt your self perception fails and you are in anosognosia.


It can be difficult to recognize the difference between anosognosia and simply denial or determination to overcome the odds and return to as normal a life as possible.  Not everyone shows anosognosia in the same way.

  • Refusal to acknowledge something is wrong with them.
  • Avoidance of the subject.
  • Confusion why other people don’t believe them.


For the purpose of this post, we will call the medical condition “cancer”.  The person is diagnosed with cancer and may even begin treatments.  However, you will notice that they begin to miss appointments or to not take the medication as prescribed.  They may be beyond simply not accepting the diagnosis but have moved to anosognosia.


If you feel that a loved one may be suffering from this condition, it is important that they receive the proper mental health treatment.


Anosognosia Treatment

There are two main treatment forms.  The first is with medication in the category of anti-psychotics.  These are the same drugs used to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  These are fairly powerful drugs and can affect each person differently.  It is probable that the patient will need different versions of this medication over a lifetime as the body responds differently to the chemical compounds and as new versions are developed.


The other treatments form is motivational enhancement therapy, MET.  This is a cognitive talk therapy that will help the individual recognize their symptoms, seek and maintain the physical health treatments necessary.


Providing a support system for a loved one with anosognosia is very difficult.  Some days will be better and some worse.  As much as possible, try to avoid judging the behavior.  Keeping a record of the person’s behavior may be beneficial especially a video, which can be accomplished with your cell phone on record.


There is no definitive cure for this mental state.  Continuing therapy and seeing a psychiatrist can help improve the quality of life for the individual and those around them.