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One disturbing study indicates that people in Iowa may be receiving unnecessary and potentially damaging schizophrenia treatment when they do not need it. Researchers studying a Baltimore medical center discovered that at least 50 percent of the clinic’s patients diagnosed with schizophrenia had actually been misdiagnosed. Instead, they were actually only suffering from anxiety. The research points to a potential danger of widespread overdiagnosis of severe mental illness. As a result, patients may receive inappropriate treatment that is also ineffective for treating their actual underlying illnesses.

In order for people to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, doctors look for certain symptoms, including hallucinations, delusions, negative symptoms, disorganized speech and disorganized behavior. However, many general practitioners diagnose patients with schizophrenia without referring them to a psychiatrist. While lots of people with schizophrenia experience auditory hallucinations or “hearing voices,” these reports are often linked to misdiagnosis. The symptom can actually be linked to a range of conditions and sometimes may be simply transient. Other times, patients may simply be speaking about their fear and distress rather than experiencing true auditory hallucinations.

Of the 54 patients at the Baltimore clinic who had received a schizophrenia diagnosis, only 26 had it confirmed. Instead, 54 percent had mood disorders or anxiety. In 14 of them, the patients had notable, obvious signs of anxiety. The researchers said that medical mistakes and incorrect diagnoses can be even more common when specialist assistance is not sought while making a diagnosis of serious mental illness.

Schizophrenia treatment can be accompanied by serious side effects. For misdiagnosed patients, side effects can lead to lingering problems without providing relief. Someone who has suffered a worsened health condition due to a doctor error can consult with a medical malpractice attorney about their legal options.