The results of a recent study suggest that more than half of the people in Hawaii and throughout the country who are diagnosed with schizophrenia each year may only suffer from anxiety. A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied the cases of 54 patients who were referred to a Baltimore clinic after being diagnosed with schizophrenia by a general practitioner, and they found that only 26 of them actually suffered from the condition. Most of the patients were eventually diagnosed with either anxiety or some sort of mood disorder.
The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America provides general practitioners with a list of five symptoms that must be present before schizophrenia can be diagnosed. They include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech patterns and catatonic behavior. The problem facing doctors is that patients suffering from anxiety often exaggerate their symptoms and may appear schizophrenic to medical practitioners who lack specialized training. Another challenge is that most of the symptoms of schizophrenia are common to a host of other psychological disorders.
The researchers discovered that the most common reason for a schizophrenia misdiagnosis was hearing voices, and they concluded that these mistakes often go undetected because few doctors send their patients to a more qualified specialist for a second opinion. The study was published in March 2019 in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.
Personal injury attorneys may cite studies such as this one to establish liability in medical malpractice cases. Doctors are rarely willing to draw attention to mistakes made by their peers, but research conducted by highly respected experts might convince juries that errors are far more common than the healthcare industry would like to admit. Attorneys may also call on researchers to provide expert testimony about frequently made medical mistakes and the profound effect they can have on the lives of patients.