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Study finds many schizophrenia patients misdiagnosed

Almost half of California residents who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia may actually be suffering from anxiety, according to a new study. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University.

For the study, researchers analyzed the medical records of 78 patients who had been referred to the Johns Hopkins Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic with suspected schizophrenia between February 2011 and July 2017. Medical staff at the clinic thoroughly interviewed the patients and their families and reviewed the patients' psychosocial and medical backgrounds. They also gave the patients physical examinations.

Of the 54 patients who arrived at the clinic with predetermined schizophrenia diagnoses, only 48 percent were found to actually have the disorder. Meanwhile, 51 percent of those 54 patients were diagnosed with anxiety or other mood disorders. Fourteen of the patients who had been misdiagnosed were determined to have prominent anxiety symptoms. According to the authors of the study, their findings suggest that schizophrenia may be overdiagnosed in the United States. One of the reasons for misdiagnosis could be that some general practitioners misunderstand the symptoms of schizophrenia, particularly the symptom of "hearing voices." In order to avoid diagnosis errors, the researchers recommend that general practitioners obtain a second opinion from a psychiatry specialist.

Patients who have been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia or other mental health conditions may receive improper or delayed treatments, which could harm their prognosis. As a result, misdiagnosed patients might have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who made the error. An attorney familiar with medical error claims may review the case and determine if the doctor failed to provide the required standard of care. If the case moves forward, the patient might be awarded compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other related damages.

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