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What is Anosognosia?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2018
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Anosognosia is a condition in which a person with a serious medical condition does not know that he or she is ill. It tends to occur most often in people who have neurological or mental disorders. The condition can prevent a person from seeking treatment or refusing to follow a doctor’s recommended treatment plan, making him more susceptible to his symptoms worsening.

Although the precise cause of anosognosia has not been definitively proven, it is generally thought to be the result of a malfunction in the brain. People who have damage in the frontal lobe, the area of the brain located directly in the center, are usually at the highest risk of the condition. One of the main responsibilities of the frontal lobe is judgment, so a person with a damaged frontal lobe may not be able to realize any symptoms related to a medical condition are out of the ordinary. Damage to the parietal lobe, the part of the brain just behind the frontal lobe, can also contribute to the condition because it is responsible for perception. Parietal lobe damage may make a person completely unaware of any symptoms.

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One of the most common disorders that can be associated with anosognosia is bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that causes a person to experience uncontrollable mood swings due to an imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters in his or her brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other areas of the body. People with bipolar disorder may not recognize their symptoms as anything out of the ordinary because they may seem like normal mood changes to them, so they don’t recognize the severity. Other medical conditions that are associated with lack of recognition of symptoms include many other neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Anosognosia does not have a proven cure or treatment. For some people, the condition is temporary and simply goes away on its own without any medical intervention. Other people may struggle with the condition off and on for their entire lives. Often, friends or family members will recognize any symptoms and convince the person to seek the medical treatment they may otherwise not have.

This condition has potentially dangerous consequences since it can prevent someone from seeking medical treatment for serious conditions. People with bipolar disorder or other mental conditions can lose touch with reality if their conditions are not treated, which can lead to them inadvertently harming themselves or others. Those who have neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease can also harm themselves if they do not seek treatment because they may lack the physical capability to perform basic tasks safely without assistance.

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