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Along with studies pointing to African Americans having higher instances of medical problems than other races, it is also purported that African Americans are more likely than whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia. However, a newly released study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry contends that there might be a bias in these cases.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, some of the signs patients exhibit – “speaking incoherently, beset by delusions or hallucinations, and either severely withdrawn or manic” – are not only symptoms of a person with schizophrenia, but also from other illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or even an extreme case of depression.

The study revealed that African American patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia more than two and a half times as often as were white patients:

“That was the case even when the diagnosing psychiatrists based their conclusions entirely on reports of a subject’s symptoms and his or her responses to a structured interview, with any hints of the subject’s race stripped away. Even when African American patients showed significant signs of a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, it was the severity of their psychotic symptoms that jumped off the page to the color-blinded psychiatrists. For white patients, even psychiatrists blinded to race were more likely to balance signs of psychosis with signs of a mood disorder.”

The authors write, “In African American subjects, psychotic symptoms may be overvalued by clinicians, skewing diagnoses toward schizophrenia-spectrum conditions.”

Source: LA Times

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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