How Often Do Psychiatrists Misdiagnose Their Patients?

by | Sep 17, 2014 | Healthcare

Some people believe that psychiatrists will simply diagnose patients in order to satisfy their patients or to gain another client. People believe that patients are misdiagnosed all the time, contributing to the dependency on medications that stigmatizes the United States. This can cause people to mistrust psychiatrists, causing significant damage when people try to self-diagnose themselves and take their medical issues into their own hands. When someone begins taking the wrong medication and/or the wrong dosage of medication, or chooses not to treat a mental illness altogether, this can be harmful to one’s own physical and mental being as well as to others who interact with that person. A psychiatrist is trained in understanding and diagnosing mental health issues, and although misdiagnoses occur from time to time due to misinformation or an unusual combination of symptoms, psychiatrists use an established process for diagnosing their patients.

How Psychiatrists Make a Diagnosis
Although the order of these steps is not critical, each of these steps is typically used in order to form a diagnosis:
1.    Face to face interview(s). This interview enables a psychiatrist to hear about the patient’s problems in his or her own words and to observe the patient. Sometimes more than one interview may be necessary if the symptoms are unusual or unclear.
2.    Psychological tests. Comprehensive multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank tests are used to examine various psychological conditions, awareness of the present, memory, and whether the patient is a danger to himself/herself or others. These tests are generally good indicators of signs and symptoms, although they should not be relied on as stand-alone indicators. Rather, professional observation is always necessary.
3.    Test and/or interview with a close relation. Although this is less common, some psychiatrists will give a test to or conduct an interview with the patient’s parent, spouse, teacher, or other close relation. This may be necessary in complicated situations, to clear any doubts, or to enhance the evaluation process.
4.    Detailed evaluation. Once the tests and interviews are complete, the psychiatrist will review all notes, consult his or her DSM-4 book (standard reference book), and determine a diagnosis based on the disorder(s) or problem(s) that best fit the patient’s condition.

Final Steps
Once a diagnosis has been made, the psychiatrist will explain the findings to the patient, answer any questions, and prescribe medication as necessary. If a patient feels that he or she has been misdiagnosed, these concerns should be shared with the psychiatrist as soon as possible, and any new or different information should be provided.

Each psychiatrist at The University Behavioral Health of El Paso are qualified and experienced in the field of mental health. Visit or call 915-544-4000 for more information.

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