What is it Like to Have a Misdiagnosed Mental Illness?

Being diagnosed with a mental health illness can be challenging to handle. But, dealing with a misdiagnosed mental health illness can be even more complex and lead to even more severe medical issues if not detected. We will examine the most misdiagnosed mental illnesses, the dangers it presents, and how patients can be a part of the diagnosis process to help prevent this from happening.

Most Misdiagnosed Mental Illnesses

Unfortunately, more people than you may think are diagnosed with the wrong mental illness. Statistics from the National Library of Medicine of a study of 840 primary care patients revealed[1]:

  • 9% misdiagnosis rate for major depressive disorders
  • 7% misdiagnosis rate for bipolar disorder
  • 8% misdiagnosis rate for panic disorder
  • 8% misdiagnosis rate for social anxiety disorder

How does this happen? Let’s take a look.


Since major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in the country, it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the most misdiagnosed mental health issues.[2] This is mainly because depression is a common symptom of many other illnesses and mental health issues. Many people may be diagnosed with major depressive disorder when they don’t have it. People who are treated for depression and don’t really have it will not experience relief from the condition they are genuinely suffering from.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are also regularly misdiagnosed. Like depression, anxiety can also be the result of other health issues. While many people deal with anxiety for one reason or another, people with actual anxiety disorders deal with high amounts of stress, even under normal conditions. If the root of the anxiety is not addressed, it can lead to a misdiagnosis.

Bipolar Disorder

Because bipolar disorder is often characterized by periods of depression, it can also be misdiagnosed. But bipolar disorder deals explicitly with the inability to regulate emotions. That is what sets it apart from depression and anxiety disorders.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Another commonly misdiagnosed mental illness is borderline personality disorder. This condition deals with unstable relationships, moods, and emotions. Many people with depression or PTSD can have similar symptoms, which can lead to the wrong mental health diagnosis.

Dangers of a Misdiagnosed Mental Health Illness

It is essential to avoid a misdiagnosed mental illness at all costs because of the dangers it can present, such as:

Emotional Distress

If you begin treatment for a condition you don’t have, you may start to feel distressed because the treatment is not working. Since you don’t know that you’re receiving the wrong treatment, this can make you feel like a failure when that is not the case.

Wrong Medication

A dangerous effect of a misdiagnosed mental health illness is getting the wrong medication. If someone takes a prescription medication for a mental illness they don’t have, it can lead to adverse side effects. This can result in serious health problems and added stress and anxiety.

Worsening Condition

Since the actual condition is not being treated under a misdiagnosis, there is an excellent chance that the condition will worsen. A patient may be waiting to see improvements when their condition is only getting worse. This can be highly distressing and lead a patient to make unhealthy choices that negatively impact their lives.

How to Prevent Misdiagnosis

To better pinpoint symptoms and get the correct mental health diagnosis, there are a few things you can do:

Be Honest

Many people may be ashamed to admit what is truly going on. But, if you don’t give your doctor an accurate picture, they can’t help you improve. If the doctor is missing critical pieces of information or has the wrong information, it can lead to a misdiagnosed mental illness.

Keep a Record

Keep a journal of your symptoms and what situations make you feel a particular way. This can help doctors see how frequently these feelings arise and what causes them. By keeping track of your symptoms accurately, your doctor can properly diagnose what is happening.

See a Specialist

If you are experiencing mental health issues, see a mental health specialist. They will be more likely to diagnose you correctly versus a general practitioner. They can give the proper mental health diagnosis and prescribe the right mental health treatment.

Seeking Help at Healing Foundations

The staff at Healing Foundations Center specializes in helping those dealing with depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and many other mental health disorders. Since everyone’s condition differs, our staff works with each patient to determine the best-tailored treatment plan. Our treatment plans include different types of therapy and intensive outpatient programs. We commit to helping our patients receive the proper mental health treatment for their conditions.

For more information on our various treatment programs, call us today, or contact us online.



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184591/

[2] https://www.psychiatrist-bocaraton.com/wrong-diagnosis-and-misdiagnosis-correction/