Schizophrenia is a chronic and debilitating mental illness, but a study published recently in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice suggests that many of the patients in Ohio and around the country who are told that they suffer from it are misdiagnosed. After studying the case histories of 58 patients who were told by their general practitioner’s that they suffer from schizophrenia, researchers from Maryland’s Johns Hopkins University found that 26 of them were only suffering from either a mood disorder or anxiety.

While worrying, this discovery did not come as a complete surprise to the research team. This is because the symptoms that must be present for a diagnosis of schizophrenia are common to a several other mental disorders. These symptoms include hallucinations, erratic body movements, delusions, dysfunctional thinking and disorganized speech. The researchers reached their conclusions after performing physical examinations and conducting interviews with both the patients and their families.

The results of these examinations and interviews along with the information found in the patients’ medical histories revealed that the most frequent reason for a schizophrenia misdiagnosis was hearing voices that were not there. The researchers also discovered that most general practitioners did not refer their patients to a specialist for a second opinion after diagnosing schizophrenia.

The consequences of a medical misdiagnosis can be profound, and this is especially true when the condition involved is treated with powerful antipsychotic drugs that must be taken for life. When pursuing medical malpractice lawsuits on behalf of patients who have suffered injury, loss or damage due to a misdiagnosis, personal injury attorneys may cite studies like the one conducted at John’s Hopkins University to reveal to juries how often these kinds of mistakes are made. Attorneys might also call on the researchers involved to provide expert testimony.