There are some conditions where, because the symptoms are similar, there may be a diagnosis of a mental health issue where none exists and the problem is physical, or a mental health diagnosis may be missed and a condition diagnosed as something completely different.

Examples of some circumstances where a misdiagnosis in favour of a mental health problem being the issue are:

  • Undiagnosed stroke – The BBC news has reported on a man who had been admitted and treated for mental illness because he suffered from an inability to speak; he was initially diagnosed with a “nervous breakdown” and other mental conditions. In fact he had had a mild stroke and was suffering from aphasia (the inability to speak), a well known consequence of stroke
  • A drug interaction issue is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as dementia. In elderly patients, in particular, who take a number of different drugs for different ailments the “dementia” may be a side effect of one of the drugs or it may be caused by an interaction between the multiple drugs that are being taken
  • A brain pressure condition where there is too much “fluid on the brain” can often be diagnosed as mental illness, whereas it is actually a neurologist rather than a psychiatrist that the patient needs to see

Examples of some circumstances where a mental health diagnosis may be missed are:

  • Bipolar disorder is often not correctly diagnosed by GPs
  • Undiagnosed depression in teenagers – normal teenage “moodiness” can cause severe clinical depression to be overlooked

The information on this page is taken from