One of the biggest challenges for diagnosing, evaluating and treating mental illness comes from a lack of awareness or insight. Typically in these patients, there is a lack of motivation for change which leads to them rejecting the reality of their situation.

When patients reject their reality, it not only delays correct diagnosis but also delays effective treatment. It has been proven that mental illness awareness is directly linked to sticking to treatment and positive motivation for change.

This is significant for mental illnesses including dissociative disorders, psychotic disorders (schizophrenia) or eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia). In fact, lack of awareness of illness makes them more susceptible to relapses, in addition to elongating the time of hospital visits, which not only effects the individual but also other relationships, families and work.

Although the term has multiple meanings, some professionals use the term “insight” to refer to an individual’s ability for introspection, self-awareness and self-evaluation depending on the theoretical perspective.

What does it mean to be aware or have insight into mental illness?

In other words, a lack of illness awareness leads patients to adjust poorly to treatment as they believe they do not need it. This ultimately adds to them being unmotivated to change the things that require a large effort on their part.

To manage certain mental illnesses, the support of families and health professionals is crucial. For this reason they should prioritise having good insight.

For situations where there is a lack of or very little awareness or insight, it is important to refer to a series of factors or general guidelines:

In professional environments, insight is generally based on the patient’s use of emotional arguments more than rational,  focusing on the importance of their adherence to treatment whether they are fully aware of the illness or not. So, current multidisciplinary perspectives focus on improving insight through active and reflexive listening as well as empathy as tools that help to promote change in behaviour towards improvement.

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