When Doctors Misdiagnose Physical Ailments as Psychiatric Conditions

Doctors who attempt to convince patients that physical ailments are psychiatric conditions that are “all in their heads” can expose patients to serious harm and even death. When genuine health concerns are undiagnosed, it can delay treatment and exacerbate the patient’s condition thus complicating treatment and the potential for making a full recovery.

Laziness, Arrogance, and Incompetence Are to Blame

Most people rely on their physicians to provide them with an accurate diagnosis based on the symptoms they relay and the results of medical tests. However, many well-educated physicians are keen to discount the complaints and concerns of their patients when a puzzling condition presents. Similarly, many doctors do not have training in specialized medicine. As a result, if a patient contacts them with a complaint beyond their medical knowledge, physicians may attempt to write it off as a psychiatric condition. This can negatively impact the person’s health and cause the patient to question the very real symptoms and problems they are experiencing.  

Rare Diseases Pose a Significant Challenge

Certain diseases happen with such limited frequency that physicians may not be familiar with the signs and symptoms their patient’s present. It can be difficult to connect the dots to ALS, Lemierre’s, and other conditions. Similarly, many patients may present with conditions that are not common in the region, such as malaria, dengue, or other acquired viral and bacterial infections caught when people travel to far flung lands.

In these instances, it is easy for physicians to miss the correct diagnosis. It is also more common for the physician to argue that the patient isn’t experiencing the symptoms they claim. In fact, it is common for the physician to point a finger at mental illness as if it is a catch-all for medical science they don’t understand or have experience handling. If the patient’s diagnosis is missed or misdiagnosed, the patient can suffer significantly as their health deteriorates. If the patient doesn’t receive a second, accurate opinion, lethal consequences can result. Even when a proper diagnosis is ultimately received, it may come after months or years at which point significant, irreversible damage has occurred that permanently limits the individual’s quality of life.