Schizophrenia is associated with all kinds of risk factors. The disease is not fully understood, hence the impossibility to perfectly cure it. Although its symptoms have also been mentioned in ancient writings and medical journals, the truth is that understanding this affliction has always been a challenge for the medical world due to its high complexity. While some risk factors and symptoms are obvious, a perfect treatment and a precise diagnosis are still very problematic. Patients aren’t relatively often classified as suffering from schizophrenia. Instead, they are classified as suffering from psychotic disorders, while the specialist doctors try to treat the actual symptoms.
Why Misdiagnosing Schizophrenia Happens
Schizophrenia is diagnosed by analyzing the symptoms and signs, based on self-reports by the patient. There is just no other way to do it. But then, imagine what might happen when a form of cancer, cardiovascular affection or lung related problem is diagnosed according to nothing but the symptoms. Misdiagnosing the disease becomes perfectly normal and expected from this isolated viewpoint. This is why specialist doctors use the symptoms to get a clue about the potential problem only before forming conclusive opinions.
From that point on, they perform several other tests. However, when it comes to schizophrenia, such additional tests do not exist. It is not unusual for a patient to be given a multivitamin therapy due to a vitamin B12 deficiency and psychosis. While this might be a solution, other alternatives should be considered as well. Things like these lead to the unexpected confusion about this disorder, as well as the patient’s suffering.
There are a lot of substances and medications that can induce a psychotic disorder and they are extremely diversified. For instance, alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, and drugs for AIDS, vitamin B12 deficiencies and Alzheimer’s disease are very likely to lead to schizophrenia in the long run. There are also a series of disorders that seem to be like schizophrenia, mostly because they imitate some of its symptoms. For instance, a brain injury or epilepsy are both very likely to cause unexpected and impaired behavior.
Properly Diagnosing Schizophrenia
In order to avoid misdiagnosing schizophrenia, specialist doctors will have to look for the main and most popular symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations. The medical history must be properly analyzed as well. Some conditions often cause symptoms that may underline schizophrenia, even if they have nothing in common.
In other words, schizophrenia is hard to diagnose like a regular disease, so it is mostly spotted by eliminating other potential affections. Aside from the common symptoms, most mental health problems have specific signs as well. Clearing those signs helps doctors take them out of discussion. This goes double for any illicit drug use. Until that habit is eliminated, no pure diagnosis can be made.
The schizophrenia diagnosis is often ambiguous. The symptoms are very diversified and may lead doctors to a series of inaccurate results. Some of them do not go all the way, hesitating, in order to not come up with a specific result that locks them into a corner later. Furthermore, some situations are so confusing that patients might have to be exposed to a few different treatments in order to figure out which one is the most effective one. Such issues may actually aggravate schizophrenia or just create some extra confusion among people.
Common Misdiagnoses of Schizophrenia
One of the major misdiagnoses comes from a cause that can be well hidden if the time and resources aren’t allocated for brain scans. This hidden cause are brain lesions and tumors. Also, temporal lobe seizures can cause many of the more obvious symptoms of schizophrenia.
Hypothyroidism, which is also called an under-active thyroid problem, can mimic many other mental health disorders, most often depression, but also schizophrenia due its ability to cause rapid fluctuations in mood by altering hormone levels. The same goes for Addison’s disease, which is caused by a dysfunction in the adrenal glands.
Other mental health disorders that produce hallucinations and delusions can be commonly misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. These include Cushing’s syndrome, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, dementia, and traumatic brain injuries. Another large culprit are the various drug-induced states of psychosis.
Unfortunately, there is no solid data concerning the rate of schizophrenia misdiagnoses. That could be seen as a good thing, because it may indicate that it’s not happening frequently enough to post a wide-scale threat. Often diagnoses are refined into a more specific diagnosis as time goes on and the psychologist or psychiatrist has learned more about the patient. It’s not uncommon for people to lie or withhold information from the doctors for whatever reason. These situations shouldn’t be considered misdiagnoses until a full-blown treatment plan is being enacted.