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You would have come across quite a few mentally ill people who actually tend to disagree on the fact that they are mentally sick. The term for such lack of knowledge or acceptance of one's mental health is termed as anosognosia.
If you have one such patient in your family and you are the caregiver, then caring for such a person can get really difficult and you will have to be highly patient in dealing with such people because according to the person he or she is perfectly healthy.
No matter how much one tries to convince the patient about the difference between the delusions and reality, the person who is ill would challenge every belief and deny the acceptance of his or her mental ill health.
What Is Anosognosia?
Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects the part of the brain that is responsible for people understanding and evaluating experiences (the frontal lobes). People who deny having such a mental illness is said to be having anosognosia. These people believe their imaginations and think that their hallucinations are all real. The delusions are strong enough to make them feel it is all happening for real.
Going by what medical science says, anosognosia occurs as a result of an anatomical damage that happens in a person's brain that prevents him or her from recognizing his or her own illness. The lack of awareness linked to anosognosia makes a person with issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc., and refuse treatment.
Warning Signs Of Anosognosia
Caring for an ill person is difficult and all the more complicated when the person has a lack of insight and has no idea or acceptance about the illness. In such scenarios, caregivers hardly receive any gratitude or receptiveness. The following are some of the signs of anosognosia:
• Difficulty in managing bills, simple finances, etc.
• Making up answers when someone questions. The answers are usually made up of imaginary details.
• Inability to keep up with regular tasks.
• Unable to maintain personal hygiene.
• Reduced inhibition in conversation.
• Poor decision-making ability.
• Illogical explanations over a variety of things.
• Becoming angry when confronted about symptoms of mental illness.
How To Handle Someone With Anosognosia?
Confronting a person who has just made up a story based on his or her imaginary beliefs would only result in frustration and anger. Telling a person who faces anosognosia that he or she is wrong will not do any good. The key technique that works here is telling the person that you see the same situation differently.
Professional help might be required if at any point of time you feel that you are unable to handle the mentally ill person alone, especially if the patient refuses treatment or stops taking the medicines.
The person with anosognosia lacks the ability to comprehend the illness. It is important that as a caregiver, you resist arguing. There is no point in trying to convince the person that he or she is mentally ill. The best way out is to show compassion.
Be patient with the individual and never leave him or her alone as you never know when there would be an emergency or unsafe situation. You can also seek outside resources that could help you with handling your loved one's situation.
The following things work in comforting the patient with anosognosia:
• Empathizing with the patient.
• Listening to the patient.
• Partnering with the patient.
• Agreeing with the patient.
What Are The Treatment Options?
At present, there are no medications or particular treatment or therapy that can relieve one of anosognosia. However, research is on and researchers believe in a few hopeful findings that are sure to pave the path towards a treatment option in the future.
Although the person lacks insight about his or her illness, still medication can be provided in a subtle manner. The best way to make a patient accept the provided treatment is by showing compassion and telling him or her about the treatment options in a non-threatening manner.
We need to know that people who suffer from schizophrenia would not take in positively to criticism. So, do not try to convince them that they are sick. Try to find out what's on the patient's mind and link that to the consumption of medication and how it would be effective and helpful in making the patient achieve his or her goal. This would ensure that there is no relapse.
Therapists can be involved who could try out the use of MET (Motivational Enhancement Therapy) to help the patients see the potential benefits of positively acknowledging the acceptance of a treatment. The motivational talk therapy needs to be presented in such a manner that it makes complete sense to the patient.