Researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied 78 patients referred to their Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic (EPIC) between February 2011 and July 2017. 54 of those 78 patients received a predetermined diagnosis of a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. Following further consultations, they found that only 26 of those 54 received a confirmation of their diagnosis. This means that a full 51 percent (28 patients) of the 54 cases were misdiagnosed.
Many were instead found to have anxiety or mood disorders. Among those misdiagnosed, 14 had prominent anxiety symptoms. (Related: Calm your anxiety and stress with these 10 natural herbs.)
A lot of the misdiagnosed patients reported hearing voices, a symptom of schizophrenia. This alone, however, wasn't enough to conclude that the patients were schizophrenic.
“Hearing voices is a symptom of many different conditions, and sometimes it is just a fleeting phenomenon with little significance,” explained Russel Margolis, a professor at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the study.
Margolis pointed out that a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia is largely caused by reported symptoms of anxiety coupled with auditory hallucinations. He stated that these should first be considered as signs of distress before jumping to conclusions.
Schizophrenia is a mental illness characterized by delusions, disorganized thinking presenting itself through speech, abnormal and disorganized motor behavior, and auditory and visual hallucinations. Conventional treatments often require a lifelong drug regimen and regular hospital visits, making its misdiagnosis a costly and utterly life-changing mistake.
The researchers noted that schizophrenia diagnoses more common now because of better knowledge when it comes to the emerging and early signs of psychotic disorders. It's a growing concern, however, because a misdiagnosis means inappropriate treatment is given. They even noted that patients thought to have schizophrenia instead usually have a different mental illness like depression and anxiety.
In figuring out why misdiagnosis is becoming so rampant, researchers believe it may be due to a lack of proper care being given to the application of criteria for schizophrenia.
“Electronic medical record systems, which often use pull-down diagnostic menus, increase the likelihood of this type of error,” Margolis added.
According to the researchers, clinicians need to be more careful about handing out schizophrenia diagnoses so easily. This minimizes the possibility of symptoms and complicated conditions being missed or misinterpreted.
The solution, other than holding clinicians accountable for their misdiagnoses, is to turn to nature to help relieve people of their anxiety symptoms.
Certain activities such as exercising and meditation have been able to ease anxiety in people. Doing some deep breathing exercises or even just eating a clean, healthy diet can help reduce anxiety and the mood changes that provoke it.
Research has also suggested that aromatherapy with some essential oils can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Plugging in a diffuser and putting a few drops of chamomile, lavender, rose, or other essential oils can go a long way to helping promote relaxation in anxious individuals.
Several dietary and lifestyle changes have also been seen to help with anxiety, such as cutting down consumption of caffeine, eating foods loaded with certain nutrients like omega-3 and l-lysine, and exposing yourself to more sunlight.
Anxiety is a problem, and it can be resolved by changing up your lifestyle to be more active and eating the right foods that promote better mental health.