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Missing a dual diagnosis can be harmful to patients

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2021 | Misdiagnosis

A dual diagnosis is common when a person has more than one condition that could be affecting the way they feel or the way their body works. Often, dual diagnoses are related to drug addiction or alcohol abuse, mental health conditions and physical disorders.

For example, someone who has physical symptoms of pain may actually have a dual diagnosis of depression as well as a diagnosis for fibromyalgia. The problem occurs in medicine when a medical provider stops at a single diagnosis and fails to consider a secondary issue.

Why are mental health disorders often misdiagnosed?

Misdiagnoses are common in mental health because getting a correct diagnosis can be complex. Identifying the root issue leading to a mental health issue could take time, and in some cases, a provider may not be skilled enough to identify the issue if it’s out of their specialty.

In cases where a patient is presenting with unusual symptoms or is not getting better despite a single diagnosis, it’s often wise for a medical provider to ask for a second opinion on what they’ve found and to send patients to see other specialists who may be more likely to identify rarer or more specific conditions.

Mental health disorders can be misdiagnosed in one of two ways. They may be diagnosed without looking for an underlying cause that may be worsening them or they could be diagnosed incorrectly. For example, a patient with depression may be diagnosed with it and given medications without the provider looking for the root cause. An underlying illness, such as a B1 deficiency, could be the true cause of their mood changes.

Similarly, someone who presents with a depressed mood may be diagnosed with depression, but if they go on to have a period of excitement or mania, then that diagnosis may later change to bipolar disorder.

It’s a fact that depression is overdiagnosed, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Finding the root cause of mental health concerns is essential. If a dual diagnosis is missed or a mental health disorder is misdiagnosed, it could lead to serious repercussions for the patient. They could then potentially pursue a medical malpractice claim.