Physician’s personality traits can hamper diagnosis

September 25th, 2008 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 25 (IANS) A physician’s personality traits can unwittingly influence inquiries about a patient’s mood swings and diagnosis of depression, according to a study. “Some doctors, due to their personal preferences, traits or attitudes, are loathe to broach sensitive topics such as depression or suicide,” said Paul R. Duberstein, professor of psychiatry at the Rochester University Medical Centre and co-author of the study.

“It is not surprising, therefore, that depression is frequently not diagnosed and physicians often do not inquire about suicidal thoughts,” the study’s authors state.

“There is no one right way to do this. A physician does not have to undergo a personality change to ask patients about depression. But physicians should reflect on the possibility that their personal traits might have implications for their approach to the assessment of depression and perhaps other mental health concerns,” said Duberstein.

Some physicians, who are reluctant to inquire about depression and suicide or who are unnerved by the inquiry, could use a screening questionnaire, said Duberstein. Some practices should hire mental health specialists, reports Eurekalert.

The researchers analysed data, audiotapes and medical records from a study in which six actresses were trained to portray a patient with major depression or one with adjustment disorder with depressed mood.

With prior physician consent and the cooperation of health plans, the actor-patients received insurance cards and other paperwork corresponding to their false identities.

The meetings with the physicians were taped using concealed tape recorders. The physicians, who were not informed when an actor was a patient, were internal and family medicine specialists in Rochester. In all, 46 physicians with 88 patient visits were studied.

The study is scheduled for online publication September in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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