Do they see dead people? Cultural factors and sensitivity in screening for schizophrenia spectrum disorders

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OBJECTIVE: Schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSDs), are diagnosed more frequently among African-Americans (AAs) than Caucasians. It has been suggested that cultural differences in symptom presentation and endorsement (including reporting spiritual/religious experiences) may influence this disparity. The current study investigated the relationship between endorsement of spiritual auditory and visual hallucinations and subsequent diagnosis of SSD among AA patients. DESIGN: Participants (N = 471 AAs) completed the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview-Plus (MINI-Plus) Screening Interview as part of their intake to a HIV outpatient clinic. Endorsement of auditory or visual (A/V) hallucinations was explored with the MINI-Plus Psychotic Disorder Module and questions regarding the content of the unusual experience. RESULTS: Logistic regression indicated that endorsement of A/V hallucinations significantly predicted a SSD (OR = 41.6, 95% CI 13.7-126.0, p < .001). However, when hallucinations were spiritual in nature, odds of an SSD fell dramatically (OR = 0.22, 95% CI 0.07-0.64, p < .001). CONCLUSIONS: The current study indicates that not all visual and auditory hallucinations are symptomatic of a psychotic disorder in AA patients. Many of these experiences may be related to spirituality. Clinicians assessing AA patients need to query content of, meaning attributed to, and distress associated with A/V unusual experiences.

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Ethnicity & health

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