Insight and neurocognitive functioning in bipolar subjects

Mujeeb U. Shad, Konasale Prasad, Steven D. Forman, Gretchen L. Haas, Jon D. Walker, Liubomir A. Pisarov, Gerald Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background Insight concerning having a mental illness has been found to influence outcome and effectiveness of treatment. It has been studied mainly in the area of schizophrenia with few studies addressing other disorders. This study evaluates insight in individuals with bipolar disorder using the Scale to Assess Unawareness of Mental Disorder (SUMD), a comprehensive interview for evaluation of awareness of illness and attribution of symptoms. The hypothesis was that in bipolar disorder level of awareness may be associated with numerous factors including neurocognitive function, structural changes in the frontal lobes and hippocampus evaluated by MRI, neurocognitive status, severity of mania and other psychiatric symptoms and comorbid alcoholism. Method In order to evaluate this hypothesis 33 individuals with DSM-IV diagnosed bipolar disorder, some with and some without comorbid alcoholism, were administered the SUMD and a number of other procedures including a quantitative MRI measuring volume of the frontal lobes and hippocampus, a brief battery of neurocognitive tests, the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, and the Young Mania Rating Scale. The data were analyzed by comparing participants with and without alcoholism on these procedures using t tests and by linear multiple regression, with SUMD ratings of awareness and attribution as the dependent variables and variable sets from the other procedures administered as multivariate independent variables. Results The median score obtained from the SUMD for current awareness was in a range between full awareness and uncertainty concerning presence of a mental disorder. For attribution, the median score indicated that attribution was usually made to the illness itself. None of the differences between participants with and without comorbid alcoholism were significant for the SUMD awareness and attribution scores, neurocognitive or MRI variables. The multiple regression analyses only showed a significant degree of association between the SUMD awareness score and the Young Mania Rating Scale (r2 =.632, p <.05). A stepwise analysis indicated that items assessing degree of insight, irritability, and sleep disturbance met criteria for entry into the regression equation. None of the regression analyses for the SUMD attribution item were significant. Conclusions Apparently unlike the case for schizophrenia, most of the participants, all of whom had bipolar disorder, were aware of their symptoms and correctly related them to a mental disorder. Hypotheses concerning the relationships between degree of unawareness and possible contributors to its development including comorbid alcoholism, cognitive dysfunction and structural reduction of gray matter in the frontal region and hippocampus, were not associated with degree of unawareness but symptoms of mania were significantly associated. The apparent reason for this result is that the sample obtained a SUMD modal awareness score of 1 or 2, reflecting the area between full awareness and uncertainty about having a mental disorder. None of the participants were rated as having a 5 response reflecting the belief that s/he does not have a mental disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-120
Number of pages9
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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