When we go to visit our medical professionals for treatment, we trust them to make the right diagnosis and propose the best treatment plan for us. Getting the right diagnosis is always the first step towards recovery.
Therefore, when the opposite is the case and an person’s mental illness is misdiagnosed, or the medical professional completely fails to diagnose, it could lead to various avoidable issues or complications for the patient. There are however, several reasons why your mental health condition could be misdiagnosed.
One issue about mental disorders is that they may not be very easy to identify as they can be complex. However, a misdiagnosed mental disorder can cause a whole lot of problems for the patient and their family and this is why it is very important that the medical professional ensures that his patient receives. Misdiagnosis of mental health conditions actually happens more often than you think.
Psychiatric Misdiagnosis Statistics
One in six adults in the UK have a common mental health condition while one in four persons will be diagnosed with a mental health condition every year such as depression or anxiety. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in the UK with almost 8% of people meeting the criteria for diagnosis. Also, statistics have indicated that about 4-10% of people in England will suffer depression in their lifetime.
Anxiety and depression are most commonly experienced among the poor and disadvantaged persons in the society. Mental health diagnosis statistics also show that mixed anxiety and depression causes 20% of days lost from work in the UK.
However, nearly 50% of depression diagnoses do not meet the correct criteria with most of these cases being as a result of physical conditions which have similar symptoms with psychiatric conditions. Example of this is hyperthyroidism which has fatigue and low mood as its symptoms and may be misdiagnosed for a mental health condition.
Actually, an alarming rate of 83% of individuals referred for psychiatric treatment had physical conditions which had not been diagnosed.
On the other hand, bipolar disorder -a mood disorder formerly known as manic depression is the fourth most-common mental health disorder in the world after depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. In 2013, there were nearly 4 million cases of mood disorders- bipolar disorder inclusive in the UK. Statistics in the UK in 2014 indicated that the mental disorder is more likely to occur in younger people than in adults. Numbers show that 3.4% of 16-24-year olds screened positive of bipolar disorder as against only 0.4% of 65-74-year olds.
Most times, it’s more common for someone to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder when they do not have the mental health condition. This is because some of the ups and downs of bipolar disorder have great resemblance with those present in borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD statistics in the UK show that the condition also known as emotionally unstable personality disorder affects one in 7000 persons.
Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Mental Illnesses
The most common mental health conditions that could be misdiagnosed include;
- Major depressive disorder (depression)
- Bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Most times, these conditions are first incorrectly diagnosed as depression and unfortunately affected individuals can go months, even years, without a re-diagnosis.
Why Are Mental Health Disorders Misdiagnosed?
There are various reasons why mental illness diagnosis could be incorrect. Misdiagnosis has proved to be a big challenge even in the NHS. NHS misdiagnosis statistics from NHS Resolution shows that medical misdiagnosis remains the biggest reason for medical negligence claims.
According to the NHSR, around 40% of claims made annually relate to wrong diagnosis, late diagnosis or failure to diagnosis- all which are collectively termed misdiagnosis. When this happens in medical health conditions, it could even be more problematic.
The following reasons have been identified as why your mental health condition could be misdiagnosed;
- Difficulty In Securing An Appointment With A GP: One of the reasons why mental health conditions could be misdiagnosed (in this case delayed diagnosis) is the difficulty in getting a GP appointment. In October 2014, the Department of Health and NHS England had laid out plans to improve patient access to mental health services by 2020.
Despite this, it can still take up to Four and half months (18weeks) before an individual may be attended to. In some cases, however, a patient may be able to get an appointment within six weeks.
- Referral Protocols In Managing Mental Health Conditions: Although mental health services are free with the NHS, your GP has to access you first, provide you with preliminary advice or treatment before referring you to a specialist. These processes may take time.
- Similar Symptoms: Some mental health illnesses have overlapping symptoms with other illnesses which may not even be psychological. Therefore, if they are not thoroughly evaluated, misdiagnosis may occur. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder may be misdiagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder or hyperthyroidism misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder.
Making a mental health diagnosis isn’t just as simple as checking off symptoms on a patient’s list and picking a diagnosis that fits most of the parameters. There could be more than one health condition sharing the same symptoms. It is therefore important that a clinician makes a comprehensive investigation into the origin of a patient’s health condition in order to make an accurate diagnosis. A clinician should also not rule out the possibility of a more complex condition while making a diagnosis.
- Incorrect Patient Medical History: Having an accurate medical history is key towards making the right diagnosis. Referrals to a specialist will come based on the diagnosis of your GP. Your clinician will most likely work with your medical history as it provides the observations and notes from past observers including other relevant medical information.
When the information is incorrect, the specialist will have the wrong information leading to wrong treatment.
Sometimes, when patients do not give out the whole truth about their condition or talk about certain vital subjects such as substance abuse or childhood trauma, or feel that some experiences are not important to talk about, it affects the accuracy of their medical health records.
- Multiple Health Conditions: When an individual has more than one condition to diagnose, it is most likely to misdiagnose one or more of the conditions. It is noticed more where the conditions include both medical and psychological conditions.
For example, someone with undiagnosed borderline personality disorder may be wrongly diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a result of the severe and intense emotions associated with both conditions. Similarly, someone with an undiagnosed hypothyroidism may also be misdiagnosed with depression due to the lack of energy.
Dangers Of A Misdiagnosed Mental Disorder
The consequences of a wrongly diagnosed mental disorder can be traumatic for both the affected individual and their loved ones as the person may receive the wrong treatment, may not receive any at all while the condition continues to get worse.
The following have been identified as dangers of misdiagnosis;
- Wrong Medication: When a patient receives the wrong diagnosis, he will most likely receive the wrong kind of medication. This will eventually cause some other side effects or complications. For example, patients with ADHD will find Adderall beneficial to them but on the other side, the same drug can cause memory impairment, cognitive impairment, and even addiction in people who don’t have ADHD.
- Worsening Condition: Obviously, an individual’s condition is likely to worsen when they are misdiagnosed. This is not unconnected to the fact that they are receiving the wrong medication. Additionally, when they do not see an improvement in their health, it can be distressing for the patient and loved ones. Some patients may even turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with the distress leading to further complications.
- Emotional Distress: When a mental illness is misdiagnosed, obviously the patient receives the wrong treatment. When this happens and there is no progress, it becomes emotionally distressing for the patient as they could see the lack of progress as a failure. They may also feel like they have failed both themselves and their loved ones. They tend to become reserved, disconnected and can even cause them further mental ill-health.
How To Prevent Misdiagnosis?
As much as there is no way to totally guarantee that a medical professional will not wrongly diagnose or fail to diagnose your condition, there are measures you can take to minimize them.
- Be honest about your symptoms and do not be ashamed of them. Provide as much information as possible which will help your medical professional make a correct diagnosis. Do not feel that some information is not important to mention.
- Make a record of your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. This may be a daily or weekly journal where you put down your symptoms and behavior which will help a clinician spot any red flags and make the right diagnosis. As long as the information is legible and accurate, there is no rule about what format you must write them down.
- See a specialist; this increases your chances of getting the right diagnosis. It is important that you visit a specialist for your age. A clinician that specializes in treating adults may not be well suited when it comes to children or teens.
What To Do If You Are Misdiagnosed?
- When you feel that you have been misdiagnosed, the first thing you can do is to find out facts. You may schedule a meeting with your psychiatrist to discuss this.
- Secondly, you may visit another health professional to get a second opinion if you are not satisfied with the first. By law, you do not have a right to a second opinion but it is very unlikely that a medical professional will deny you the request. The medical professional who gave you the first diagnosis determines who you can meet for a second diagnosis. For example, you may meet another GP if the first opinion you received was from a GP. Alternatively, you may request for a psychiatric referral.
- The next step you can take especially in cases of NHS misdiagnosis is to contact PALS. The Patient Advice and Liaison Service’s (PALS) is set up to help patients resolve issues concerning the quality of treatment they received.
- Make a complaint; when you feel you did not receive the right diagnosis or the best form of care, you have the right to write a formal complaint to the NHS or private establishment detailing the reasons for your dissatisfaction.
- Contact your medical negligence claims solicitor- this will be your last port of call and by this time, you should have gathered enough evidence to support your claims.
Here at Medical Negligence Direct, we have medical negligence experts, experienced in medical misdiagnosis claims and NHS clinical negligence ready to assist you in your claims and support you to ensure that you get a deserved compensation once we have evaluated your claims and are sure that you have a valid claim.
What Can I Claim For While Making Mental Health Misdiagnosis Claims?
When making your hospital negligence claims for mental health misdiagnosis, you may make compensation claims for the following;
- The type of misdiagnosis you suffered
- Severity of your injury or complication as a result of the misdiagnosis
- Estimated time for recovery or future prognosis
- Impact of the misdiagnosis on your quality of life
- Financial losses incurred
- Costs of further medical treatment
- Costs of therapies and rehabilitative care
- Costs of hiring of caregivers
We undertake all mental health misdiagnosis negligence claims on a no win no fee medical negligence claims basis, thus allowing you to make claims without having to pay for any legal fees throughout the duration of the claims process. Give us a call on 0800 644 4240 to get started.
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