Association between psychiatric disorders and iron deficiency anemia among children and adolescents: a nationwide population-based study



A great deal of evidence has shown that iron is an important component in cognitive, sensorimotor, and social-emotional development and functioning, because the development of central nervous system processes is highly dependent on iron-containing enzymes and proteins. Deficiency of iron in early life may increase the risk of psychiatric morbidity.


Utilizing the National Health Insurance Database from 1996 to 2008, children and adolescents with a diagnosis of IDA were identified and compared with age and gender-matched controls (1:4) in an investigation of the increased risk of psychiatric disorders.


A total of 2957 patients with IDA, with an increased risk of unipolar depressive disorder (OR = 2.34, 95% CI = 1.58 ~ 3.46), bipolar disorder (OR = 5.78, 95% CI = 2.23 ~ 15.05), anxiety disorder (OR = 2.17, 95% CI = 1.49 ~ 3.16), autism spectrum disorder (OR = 3.08, 95% CI = 1.79 ~ 5.28), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (OR = 1.67, 95% CI = 1.29 ~ 2.17), tic disorder (OR = 1.70, 95% CI = 1.03 ~ 2.78), developmental delay (OR = 2.45, 95% CI = 2.00 ~ 3.00), and mental retardation (OR = 2.70, 95% CI = 2.00 ~ 3.65), were identified. A gender effect was noted, in that only female patients with IDA had an increased OR of bipolar disorder (OR = 5.56, 95% CI = 1.98 ~ 15.70) and tic disorder (OR = 2.95, 95% CI = 1.27 ~ 6.86).


Iron deficiency increased the risk of psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and developmental disorders. Further study is required to clarify the mechanism in the association between IDA and psychiatric disorder.

Keywords: Iron deficiency anemia, Psychiatric disorders, Comorbidity


According to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency (ID) is the most prevalent nutritional deficiency. A 30% prevalence of iron deficiency anemia (IDA), at a minimum, has been noted among children, adolescents, and women in non-industrialized countries, and ID is also the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in industrialized countries [14]. ID, defined by two or more abnormal measurements (serum ferritin, transferrin saturation, erythrocyte protoporphyrin), is insidious and uneasily detected by patients themselves and may not develop significant clinical symptoms [14]. IDA is characterized by a defect in hemoglobin synthesis owing to significant ID, resulting in the reduced capacity of the red blood cells to deliver oxygen to body cells and tissues, and many clinical symptoms, such as pale conjunctiva, shortness of breath, dizziness, and lethargy [14]. The main risk factors for IDA and ID include a low intake of iron, poor absorption of iron from diets, chronic loss of iron (i.e., ulcer, metrorrhagia), and some specific periods of life when iron requirements are especially high, such as growth and pregnancy [14].

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Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis presenting as an acute psychotic episode misdiagnosed as dissociative disorder: a case report

  • Yuichiro ShimoyamaEmail author,
  • Osamu Umegaki,
  • Tomoyuki Agui,
  • Noriko Kadono and
  • Toshiaki Minami
JA Clinical Reports20162:22

DOI: 10.1186/s40981-016-0048-3

Received: 17 June 2016

Accepted: 26 August 2016

Published: 1 September 2016



In 2005, “anti-N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor encephalitis,” a syndrome with prominent psychiatric symptoms, memory loss, decrease in level of consciousness, and central hypoventilation, was described in young women with ovarian teratomas and antibodies against an antigen highly expressed in the hippocampus. This report highlights the growing need for increased awareness among psychiatrists and other relevant medical professionals about this under-diagnosed disorder, which should be considered in differential diagnoses.

Case presentation

A 19-year-old female with no psychiatric history presented to a district general hospital with acute psychosis, emotional lability, memory deficit, fluctuating behavioral changes such as wandering and babbling, and seizure. She was admitted to the hospital with a provisional diagnosis of dissociative disorder. Soon after admission, she developed aspiration pneumonia and was intubated for mechanical ventilation. She was transferred to our hospital for further assessment and admitted to the intensive care unit for ventilation. Laboratory test results were unremarkable, but her EEG showed non-specific slowing with no epileptiform activity, and brain computed tomography (CT) and MRI also showed no remarkable findings. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis showed an elevated white blood cell count (15 cells/hpf; 70 % lymphocytes), and blood serum and CSF samples tested positive for NMDA receptor antibodies. Abdominal contrast-enhanced CT revealed an ovarian teratoma, which was subsequently removed laparoscopically. Postoperative immunotherapy (steroids, intravenous immunoglobulin, and plasmapheresis) led to gradual improvement. On day 25 of hospitalization, neuropsychological assessment demonstrated that overall, she had returned to her premorbid level of functioning. Her condition substantially improved over several months of cognitive rehabilitation, and she was eventually discharged on day 75.


Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a form of autoimmune encephalitis, is commonly associated with tumors and often misdiagnosed. Diagnosis can be confirmed by detecting NMDA receptor antibodies in the patient’s serum or CSF. Management can be achieved with immunosuppressive therapy and tumor resection.

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A Case of Conversion Catatonia Misdiagnosed for 24 Years

Pauline K. Wiener, M.D.

INTRODUCTION Catatonia is a syndrome whose etiology may be both diverse and difficult to substantiate . Ms. H. is a 45-year-old black female with 18 previous psychiatric hospitalizations beginning at age 21 . A common characteristic to all hospitalizations was a catatonic presentation (i.e ., the patient was mute with marked muscular rigidity; she would refuse to eat or follow orders). In ea ch of her previous 18 hospitalizations, the patient was thought to be psychotic. It was found that each catatonic episode could be related to a severe psychological stressor. The patient’s illness never involved delusions, hallucinations or disturbances in thought form. Upon detailed evaluation of this patient’s history she was found to have symptoms consistent wit h conversion disorder. I report here the identification of a conversion disorder presenting as recurrent episodes of catatonia. Intramuscular lorazepam was found to be repeatedly successful in resolving the ca tatonic state .

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Some cases of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder could be misdiagnosed immune disorders

Some patients sectioned with conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder could instead have a treatable immune disorder, Oxford University scientists have found.

Currently, people experiencing psychosis are often thought to be suffering from mental disorder and are treated as such with medication and psychotherapy.

But the research, published yesterday in the Lancet psychiatry journal, suggests that some of these patients could in fact be treated with immunosuppressant drugs.

Scientists studied 228 patients who had visited mental health service sites across England having experienced psychosis for the first time.

They took blood samples from each of the patients and found that three per cent of them had antibodies that attack the NMDA receptor, which allows brain cells to communicate with each other.

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Mom Misdiagnosed With Postpartum Psychosis After Childbirth When She Really Had Autoimmune Diseases and Multiple Sclerosis

My name is Kimberly and my story begins in 1978. I woke up one morning, unable to move my legs or left arm and unable to get out of bed. At the time, I was only 18 years old. I went to the hospital, was admitted for a week, and aside from my psoriasis, was discharged without a diagnosis.

As weeks went by, I continued to worsen. I developed red raised nodules on the shins of my legs. They were warm to the touch and very painful. The doctors were baffled and again sent me home without a diagnosis.

After a few weeks of horrific pain, my father carried me into a different hospital, where I was admitted with concern from the doctors there may have been fluid build-up in my ankles and I would never walk again.  Fortunately, there was no fluid. I spent a week in the hospital only to have them discharge me with a diagnosis of Sarcoidosis and Erthema nodosum. They thought it could have also been polio or rheumatic fever, and so I spent six months in a wheelchair. I was given a final diagnoses of psoriasis, sarcoidosis, Erthema nodosum, and lupus. Along with receiving steroid injections in my ankles, I took liquid painkillers just to be able to walk and function.

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Misdiagnosed bipolar: One girl’s struggle through psych wards before Stanford doctors make bold diagnosis and treatment

SAN JOSE — One day, Tessa Gallo was a typical sixth-grader, performing in school plays, running on the track team, goofing around with her two sisters and giggling with girlfriends at sleepovers.

The next, said her mother, Teresa, “She was psychotic and mentally retarded.”

In bizarre and frightening scenes, Tessa acted as frantic as a caged animal, darting out of the family car into traffic, jumping fences and hiding in neighbors’ bushes. At times she seemed catatonic, with food falling out of her mouth because she somehow couldn’t swallow. She repeated the same few sentences over and over, worried about her braces, wanting to go home.

And finally, she said nothing at all. For nine months, Tessa stopped talking. Not a word.

Doctors diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, prescribed psychiatric drugs that didn’t work and sent the San Jose family on a nightmarish odyssey through psych wards, group homes and isolation rooms.

Then, suddenly, more than 10 months into the Gallos’ terrifying ordeal, a pair of Stanford University doctors told the family that Tessa wasn’t bipolar at all. She was probably suffering from a tragically misdiagnosed condition that mimics mental illness in a way doctors are only starting to understand.

“I’ve seen cases like this before,” Dr. Jennifer Frankovich of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital told the Gallos. “I think I can bring her back.”

Controversial diagnosis

What Frankovich, a pediatric rheumatologist, and Dr. Kiki Chang, a child psychiatrist, concluded was that Tessa likely had an infection or other trigger that caused her immune system to mistakenly attack her brain, dramatically changing Tessa’s behavior overnight. It’s a condition called PANS — pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome — that in some cases, if caught early enough, could be cured by commonly used antibiotics. Without early treatment, they say, children can suffer needlessly.

It would take a mother’s stubborn devotion and the conviction of two doctors willing to stake their reputation on a controversial treatment to bring Tessa back from the brink. At the same time, they believe cases like Tessa’s could help unlock the mysteries of the brain and reveal how something as common as an infection could be behind a growing number of psychological disorders.

PANS is so new and so misunderstood, that there are no reliable estimates of how many children are affected. A national PANS parent support group believes the number nationwide could be more than 150,000, or about a quarter of the children who have obsessive compulsive disorder or other tics.

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Visual hallucinations from retinal detachment misdiagnosed as psychosis.

J Psychiatr Pract. 2011 Mar;17(2):133-6. doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000396066.79719.c5.


Hallucinations are a common presenting symptom in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. In particular, auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices, are the most common type of hallucination described in schizophrenia, while visual hallucinations are less frequently seen. Hallucinations are also present in disorders that are not primarily psychotic in nature, including mood disorders, substance-induced disorders, and psychosis due to a general medical condition. However, it is extremely important to rule out general medical causes of hallucinations, as they are often treatable and reversible, and if left untreated, the underlying non-psychiatric disorders causing them can lead to irreversible damage. We present a case in which a 48-year-old woman with schizophrenia began to complain of visual disturbances. Because of her delusional interpretation of these disturbances, they were initially attributed to psychosis, but the disturbances were in fact found to be the result of a retinal detachment.

Misdiagnosis of schizophrenia in a patient with psychotic symptoms.




A case is presented of a 37-year-old black woman with a 5-year history of a chronic psychotic illness, diagnosed as schizophrenia, who presented to the emergency room complaining of a severe headache, while appearing confused and experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations. The purpose of this case study is to illustrate the way in which the appellation of schizophrenia can be misapplied in a patient with a complicated medical history and poor follow-up evaluation and treatment.


Patients with active psychosis are frequently unable to provide a coherent or comprehensive medical history. In the absence of obvious indications to the contrary, a diagnosis of a primary psychiatric illness is often assumed, especially if this label has been applied in the past. However, the differential diagnosis of psychosis is extensive.


This patient was given a complete psychiatric and neurologic evaluation, and aspects of the history that had been lost or ignored were uncovered and reevaluated.


A diagnosis other than schizophrenia was made and another treatment, other than antipsychotic drugs, was initiated. The patient responded rapidly with improved cognitive function and resolution of her psychotic symptoms.


This case serves to illustrate how the absence of a careful clinical assessment and historical case review, in patients who have been previously labeled as schizophrenic, can perpetuate misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatments. It highlights the importance, especially in patients with an incomplete medical history, of ruling out all organic causes of psychosis to avoid inappropriately labeling someone as having a psychiatric illness

ED Physicians Often Misdiagnose Psychosis Aaron Levin

Published online: November 03, 2006


Emergency department (ED) physicians frequently misdiagnose substance-induced psychotic disorder, an initial error often compounded by inappropriate follow-up treatment, according to a study in five New York hospitals.

A more detailed review of their cases found that 25 percent of patients in the study who were first diagnosed with a primary psychotic disorder actually had substance-induced psychotic disorder or no psychosis at all, wrote Bella Schanzer, M.D., M.P.H., now mental health director of the AIDS center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, and four colleagues in the October Psychiatric Services. Schanzer was a research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University when she did this study.

Referral to inpatient hospitalization, use of antipsychotic medications, and referral to mental health or substance-abuse treatment varied according to the diagnosis made in the ED, despite later evidence that in some cases the initial diagnosis was incorrect.

The subjects received care in emergency areas that were solely focused on psychiatric illnesses, and all diagnoses were made by physicians, although not necessarily by psychiatrists, Schanzer told Psychiatric News.

Study results, the researchers said, “[highlight] the challenge of accurately diagnosing a first psychotic episode when it occurs in the context of substance use and underscore the potential for negative consequences if a diagnostic error is made.”

What might account for this pattern?

“Probably a combination of three factors: a complicated clinical presentation, lack of time in the ED, and gaps in physician training,” said Schanzer in an interview.

Patients coming to an emergency department in a psychotic state are hardly articulate reporters of their own medical history, including even whether they have taken drugs recently.

Also, the medical system doesn’t give patients adequate time to come off drugs, said Schanzer. DSM-IV calls for a month of observation after the patient ceases substance use, and hospital admissions averaged only 16 days.

Finally, psychiatric training devotes too little time to learning about addiction, she said. “Psychiatrists too often jump to a diagnosis of primary psychosis, rather than substance-induced because that’s how they were trained.”

In addition, patients were often not admitted to the same hospital where the ED was located. That limited the chance for feedback from the hospital’s more deliberate evaluation to the psychiatrists in the ED.

“We can’t even learn from the patients we admitted,” said Schanzer.

Schanzer and her colleagues studied patients from five Manhattan psychiatric emergency departments who were diagnosed with early-phase psychosis and had used drugs or alcohol in the previous 30 days.

They administered the Psychiatric Research Interview for Substance and Mental Disorders, the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, and urine toxicology screens at baseline, six months, and 12 months. Master’s-level clinicians or a physician interviewed patients at all three assessments. Additional information came from ED records, inpatient hospital records, caregivers, and reports from outpatient follow-up referrals.

A second set of expert diagnosticians looked over that information and made a “best-estimate longitudinal diagnosis.” These diagnoses were divided into substance-induced psychotic disorder, primary psychotic disorder, or no psychotic disorder.

Of the 302 patients in the total sample, 223 (74 percent) were diagnosed in the ED with primary psychotic disorder, 53 (18 percent) with substance-induced psychotic disorder, and 26 (9 percent) with indeterminate symptoms.

The best-estimate diagnoses, however, found that only 195 patients (65 percent) had a primary psychotic condition, 101 (33 percent) had a substance-induced psychosis, and six (2 percent) had no psychotic disorder.

Agreement between the two sets of diagnoses was only fair, wrote the researchers. Fifty-six patients classified as having primary psychotic disorder in the ED (false positives) actually had substance-induced disorder (52) or no psychotic disorder (4), according to the best-estimate standards. On the other hand, of the 53 patients initially diagnosed with substance-induced psychotic disorder, 11 (21 percent) had primary psychotic disorder by the best-estimate procedure.

Schanzer and colleagues expressed surprise at these results. They thought that ED psychiatrists would more likely diagnose a substance-induced psychotic disorder, since all the patients were known to have used alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine during the previous month, and most had positive urine drug screens.

Schanzer suggested that better diagnostic tools and improved training might redress some of this imbalance.

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