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Case Reports in Psychiatry
Volume 2018, Article ID 3285153, 4 pages
Case Report

Misinterpretation of Psychiatric Illness in Deaf Patients: Two Case Reports

Palm Beach Consortium of Graduate Medical Education/University Hospital and Medical Center, 7201 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL 33321, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Ethan Anglemyer; moc.liamg@reymelgna.nahte

Received 10 January 2018; Accepted 30 April 2018; Published 7 June 2018

Academic Editor: Jeronimo Saiz-Ruiz

Copyright © 2018 Ethan Anglemyer and Craig Crespi. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The Deaf/hard of hearing population is growing rapidly and the medical community is facing a higher demand for this special needs group. The Deaf culture is unique in that spoken word is via sign language. What one person may see as mania or psychosis is actually a norm with Deaf individuals. The fear of the unknown language often creates immediate conclusions that are false. As such, being culturally sensitive becomes a large component of properly assessing a Deaf patient in any psychiatric situation. In the first case, the patient is a 26-year-old prelingually Deaf male, who was placed under an involuntary hold by the emergency room physician for acting erratic and appearing to respond to internal stimuli. The patient was later interviewed with an interpreter and stated he became upset because the staff was not providing him proper care as they lacked an ability to communicate with him. The patient’s family was called who corroborated the story and requested he be discharged. Case two presents with a 30-year-old Hispanic male who is also prelingually Deaf. He was admitted involuntary for bizarre behavior and delusions, with a past diagnosis of schizophrenia. Upon interview, the patient endorsed delusions via written language; however, through an ASL-language interpreter he was able to convey a linear and coherent thought process. Caring for special needs patients must be in the repertoire of any trained healthcare professional. Deaf Individuals experience mental illness just like the general population. Symptoms such as auditory hallucinations are not brought up in the same manner and are thought to be a visual construct interpreted by the patient as a vocal expression. It is imperative that these subtle differences are known in order to differentiate out an actual mental illness. In any case where language is a barrier, an interpreter must be present for a thorough assessment. These cases lend further thought into policy reform for Deaf individuals within healthcare.