Friday, July 11, 2008

Unaware of Unawareness

Anosognosia is the medical term describing when a patient is unaware they are sick.  Research in the mental health field is only a couple decades old. 

Dr. Fuller Torrey, in his newest book, The Insanity Offense, puts it this way, “Among mental health authorities and state legislators, there is widespread unawareness of unawareness.”

He identifies it at the heart of the problem:

“Most laws governing the treatment of mentally ill individuals assume that such individuals are competent to accept or reject treatment, with the sole exception of obvious dementia.  Yet, contemporary research has established that up to half of all individuals with severe psychiatric disorders are not competent to assess their own need for treatment.  The consequences of this misunderstanding have led to increasing numbers of mentally ill individuals who are homeless, incarcerated, and victimized, and increasing numbers of individuals who commit homicides and other violent acts.  This misunderstanding underlies one of the great social disaster of late twentieth-century America.”