Q. My husband was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. He takes his medication for a few days and then as soon as he starts to feel better and his symptoms decrease, he stops taking it. It’s a real rollercoaster, believe me! His doctor says it’s due to Anosognosia but I don’t understand what that means. How do you live with someone who refuses to take his meds?
A. The word Anosognosia reportedly comes from the Greek and means without knowledge of disease. It may result from some type of malfunction in the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain, in which case the individual seems to be unaware of his or her diagnosis or condition or symptoms. Because of that, as soon as the person starts feeling good again, he or she thinks that treatment (medication and counseling) is no longer necessary. Of course both are needed to reduce the symptoms, which can include delusions and hallucinations.
In addition to a failure to realize their brain is malfunctioning, there are side-effects to the medication that individuals often do not like, such as a change in libido and weight gain. Without consistent treatment, however, the person spirals into inappropriate brain function and the symptoms return.
It is difficult (if not impossible) to live with a malfunctioning brain—for the individual to say nothing of family and friends—especially when that malfunctioning brain refused to obtain treatment. Getting the individual to become part of a regular support group can help. Sometimes scheduling a regular monthly appointment with a physician or counselor assists the person to stay on track. Otherwise, the symptoms may become so severe that it is impossible (and even unsafe) to remain in a relationship with that brain.