Friday, August 29, 2008

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

The single most significant reason why individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder fail to take their medication is because of their lack of awareness of their illness (anosognosia).

The interesting fact is that the vast majority—9 out of 10—realize their illness after treatment and stay on their medications.

Critics of assisted outpatient treatment will frequently give other reasons.  The medications don't work.  There are too many side effects.  These can be dangerous red herrings.

Think about heart disease and all that was unknown decades ago.  What was unknown was a danger.  Doctor’s couldn’t prevent high cholesterol because it was largely unknown.  Today, having your cholesterol checked is standard operating procedure. 

Medical science has proven that anosognosia is often part of severe mental illness.  Yet there are some who would rather put decisions about care in the hands of lawyers rather than doctors.   This, for the lack of a better term, is a backward policy that needs to be changed.