Abstract: Physicians’ diagnoses of psychiatric disorders for people with chronic fatigue syndrome

Int J Psychiatry Med 2002;32(2):109-24  Torres-Harding SR, Jason LA, Cane V, Carrico A, Taylor RR.  DePaul University, USA. storres@depaul.edu

OBJECTIVE: To examine rates of psychiatric diagnoses given by patients' primary or regular physicians to persons with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), persons with psychiatrically explained fatigue, and a control group. Physicians' psychiatric diagnosis and participants' self-reported psychiatric diagnoses were compared to lifetime psychiatric diagnoses as measured by a structured psychiatric interview.

METHOD: Participants were recruited as part of a community-based epidemiology study of chronic fatigue syndrome. Medical records of 23 persons with chronic fatigue syndrome, 25 persons with psychiatrically explained chronic fatigue, and 19 persons without chronic fatigue (controls) were examined to determine whether their physician had given a diagnosis of mood, anxiety, somatoform, or psychotic disorder. Lifetime psychiatric status was measured using the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV (SCID). Participants' self reports of specific psychiatric disorders were assessed as part of a detailed medical questionnaire.

RESULTS: Physicians' diagnosis of a psychiatric illness when at least one psychiatric disorder was present ranged from 40 percent in the psychiatrically explained group, 50 percent in the control group, and 64.3 percent in the CFS group. Participants in the psychiatrically explained group were more accurate than physicians in reporting the presence of a psychiatric disorder, and in accurately reporting the presence of a mood or anxiety disorder.

CONCLUSIONS: The present investigation found underrecognition of psychiatric illness by physicians, with relatively little misdiagnosis of psychiatric illness. Physicians had particular difficulty assessing psychiatric disorder in those patients whose chronic fatigue was fully explained by a psychiatric disorder. Results emphasized the importance of using participant self report as a screening for psychiatric disorder.

PMID: 12269593 [PubMed – in process]

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