English is not my first language, therefore my vocabulary isn't so fabulous.

I am describing the later stages of Alzheimer disease, and I am including some of the main key points.

For this part also, I am stuck. The phrase I am working on goes like so:

They lose the ability to memorize. To understand. To [verb for awareness of own existence]

I am mainly looking for just one verb that fits this requirement - in other words, one verb that can change: 'the ability to know that they exist' as this one sounds too tacky.

  • 8
    There's no verb. You could do it with nouns: They lose memory. Understanding. Self-awareness. Apr 24 '16 at 21:45
  • To be aware of themselves.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24 '16 at 22:54
  • 4
    I would say that "self-aware" is the adjective, and "be/is self-aware" gives you a verb.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 25 '16 at 1:36
  • @StoneyB You should post that as an answer!
    – Tim Malone
    Apr 26 '16 at 22:52

There are no words I'm aware of that fit the bill precisely, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Reflect
  • Bethink
  • Meditate
  • Introspect

If these don't satisfy you you can sort of 'cheat' by just plopping the word 'self' in front of a given word (like 'self-reflect' or 'self-study'). Although it isn't technically 'proper', your reader will surely understand what you're trying to say, and that's really the goal of language anyway. If you can make it sound as though it should be a word, and if it has a clear meaning, feel free to use it.


The knowledge of one's existence is generally referred to as consciousness or self-awareness, and one of the key symptoms of consciousness is thinking. Therefore, one could loosely use think as a synonym of the word you're looking for - which likely doesn't exist. Of course, we can think about many things other than existence, but, philosophically speaking, one can hardly think about anything without being aware of one's existence.


You might go with the hyphenated verb self-cognize, as in "They lose the ability to memorize. To understand. To self-cognize."

To cognize means "to perceive; become conscious of; know" (here).

Thus, to self-cognize means "to perceive or become conscious of or know one's self." This is tantamount to knowing one exists.


Sometimes you have to drop a particular style in favour of another. As many users have already mentioned, there is no verb in English which means "knowledge of one's existence". The terms id (the part of the mind in which innate instinctive impulses and primary processes are manifest), ego, and superego are sometimes used in connection with Alzheimer.

  • ... manifestations become murky as the clinical course of Alzheimer's disease advances. Generally, ego dysfunction is considerably more apparent than superego ...

  • Those at endstage dementia have been regarded psychodynamically as experiencing a complete breakdown of the ego and its defences with apparent reciprocal dedifferentiation of the id.

However, it's my understanding that these Freudian terms have become dated, and not everyone agrees with their definitions. But don't quote me on that.

A newly coined term, “aware ego” (The Neurobiology of the Aware Ego) appears to have replaced Freud's Id, Ego and Superego, but I don't know how common or well-known this expression is. In the same medical article, the term anosognosia (lack of self awareness) is used.

Instead, may I suggest a different solution which covers all five of the above, and is easily understandable; identity loss. Google Scholar has about 58,600 hits for Alzheimer's identitiy loss (without speech marks). Swapping verbs with nouns would lead to this formation.

They lose their memory. Their understanding. Their identity

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