Psychiatric Diseases Presenting as Infectious Diseases

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Although many psychiatric diseases have somatic manifestations, some focus on fears or delusions of infection. When a patient with a psychiatric basis for an apparent infection presents to an infectious disease physician, the physician may find the problem confusing, amusing, and ultimately frustrating until the psychiatric basis for disease is recognized. Some of these psychiatric disorders can be treated and controlled with medication and psychotherapy, although patients may resist psychiatric referral. This article reviews examples of psychiatric disorders in patients who present to the infectious disease physician, including factitious infection, malingering, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, veneroneuroses, somatization disorders, and delusional infection. The role that physicians play in amplifying these disorders is reviewed. Strategies for referral to psychiatric services are also discussed. Patients with a psychiatric disease are seen in infectious disease practices more commonly than physicians realize.

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