Do schizophrenics know they are schizophrenic?


The question of whether people with schizophrenia know they are ill is actually quite complicated. Because the hallucinations and delusions experienced by schizophrenics seem real while they are occurring, it is quite common for schizophrenics and other people experiencing psychosis, such as people with bipolar disorder, to think that what they are experiencing is normal rather than a sign of illness. There is even a name for this condition: anosognosia. Anosognosia is an impaired awareness of illness, and it is present in about half of all schizophrenics and around 40% of people with bipolar disorder.

Anosognosia is caused by damage to certain areas of the brain, and it is different than denial of an illness. People with anosognosia have a lack of insight into their illness and truly do not recognize that they are ill. Anosognosia can be very frustrating for friends and family of schizophrenics, because those who don't realize they are ill are less likely to seek out and continue treatment. This impaired awareness of illness is the largest reason why schizophrenics stop taking their medication. Because it is different than denial, interventions don't help they way they can with alcoholism or drug addiction.

Anosognosia is not always complete--many schizophrenics have moments of awareness on good days, only to lose that insight with the return of hallucinations or delusions. And sometimes people with anosognosia are perfectly aware of some of their symptoms, but oblivious to others. Fortunately, about one-third of schizophrenics see an improvement of awareness of their schizophrenia while taking antipsychotic medication.

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