UC researchers want to determine why
African-Americans seeking help for mood disorders, such as depression
or bipolar disorder, are often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia--putting
them at risk of receiving incorrect treatment.
UC will lead a four-year, multicenter,
national study to determine why these misdiagnoses occur, whether they
lead to excessive use of antipsychotic drugs among African-Americans
and whether misdiagnoses are happening in the Latino population as well.
"Research has already shown that
African-American patients are being improperly diagnosed," says Stephen
Strakowski, MD, professor in UC's Department of Psychiatry and lead
investigator for the study, "but we need to find out why."
Treatment for mood disorders is different from that typically used for schizophrenia, Dr. Strakowski points out.
"Patients suffering from depression or
bipolar disorder who only receive medications for schizophrenia will
continue to experience their original symptoms," he says, "and they
will be at risk for very poor outcomes.
"Untreated mood disorders result in
functional impairment both at work and in the home. These patients are
also at an increased risk for suicide."
Previous studies suggest that
misdiagnosis occurs when clinicians overemphasize certain symptoms
often associated with schizophrenia, and overlook or stop short of
checking for symptoms of mood disorders.
"If we can determine that these
misdiagnoses are in fact happening because symptoms are not being
recognized properly," says Dr. Strakowski, "we can find ways to correct
the problem through new education techniques and new tools for
"Ultimately, we hope that our findings
provide a starting point for improving the way clinicians arrive at a
final diagnosis and treatment plan."
Funded by nearly $10 million from the
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the UC-led study will also
include Howard University in Washington, D.C., the University of
California, Los Angeles, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of
New Jersey, the University of Michigan and the University of Texas, San