Researchers point to overdiagnosis of bipolar disorder

A study from Rhode Island’s Brown University School of Medicine suggests that about 50% of diagnosed cases of bipolar disorder could be wrong.

The overdiagnosis of bipolar disorder

This report is one of the last to appear at Brown University in the United States with the aim of optimizing the Diagnostic Evaluation, And constitutes a common front of collaboration between university researchers and health personnel in the psychiatric field. The study was conducted based on interviews with 800 psychiatric patients using a comprehensive diagnostic test, the structured clinical interview for DSM disorders. Respondents also responded to a questionnaire in which they were asked whether they had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or manic depression.

146 of these patients indicated that they had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, the researchers found that only 64 of the patients had bipolar disorder based on their own diagnoses using the SCID test.

Controversy: overdiagnosis under a magnifying glass

Researchers are studying certain explanatory hypotheses in the face of these surprising results which suggest an overdiagnosis of cases of bipolar disorder. Between them, there is speculation about a greater propensity of specialists to diagnose tuberculosis in the face of other more stigmatizing disorders and for which there is no clear treatment. Another explanatory theory attributes the responsibility for overdiagnosis to the aggressive advertising of drugs used in treatments by pharmaceutical companies. Many professionals and scientists have recently pointed out that ADHD can also be overdiagnosed.

Researchers insist on the need to use standardized and validated methods such as SCID to obtain reliable diagnoses.

Bibliographical references:

  • Zimmerman M., (2008) Is Bipolar Disorder Overdiagnosed? Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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