Diagnostic overshadowing: a potential barrier to physical health care for mental health service users
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Diagnostic overshadowing: a potential barrier to physical health care for mental health service users

Michael Nash Lecturer in psychiatric nursing, school of nursing and midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Michael Nash outlines how physical symptom reports among people with mental health problems are often attributed to mental illness, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment

Diagnostic overshadowing occurs when symptoms of physical illness are attributed to the service user’s mental illness. This increases the risks of treatment delay and the development of complications. The situation may arise due to stigmatisation of the mental condition and negative attitudes among healthcare practitioners, together with a lack of education and training in physical or mental health, or a lack of confidence in clinical skills and symptom recognition.

Preventing diagnostic overshadowing is challenging because it requires staff to reflect continually on their attitudes, skills and education needs, and practice.

Mental Health Practice. 17, 4, 22-26. doi: 10.7748/mhp2013.12.17.4.22.e862

Correspondence

Michael.nash@tcd.ie

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 28 February 2013

Accepted: 25 March 2013