4 Rare and Often Undiagnosed or Misdiagnosed Mental Illnesses

Certifications for Counselors and Four Rare Mental Illnesses

There are a wide variety of rare mental illnesses.  Also please review our certifications for counselors offered at AIHCP
There are a wide variety of rare mental illnesses. Also please review our certifications for counselors offered at AIHCP

According to the American Psychological Association, people suffering from mental illnesses are often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed upon admittance to an emergency room. Underdiagnoses and misdiagnoses can also occur when an individual visits a primary care physician who is unfamiliar with the specific criteria of lesser-known mental illnesses. Here are four rare mental illnesses that often fall under-the-radar.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is a mental illness in which a parent of a child (or the child of an elderly parent) exaggerates, causes, or lies about their child’s illness. They may do this by giving them pills that cause diarrhea, withholding food and medication, purposefully causing infections, and faking laboratory results. Unfortunately, the parents’ lies are often so convincing that the attending physician never suspects Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Mental health care professionals who approach psychology from both a natural and social perspective understand how prevalent eating disorders are in Western society. However, when evaluating a patient who’s suffering from the symptoms of a negative calorie eating disorder, even a professional with a psychology bachelor’s or master’s degree may misdiagnose the patient with anorexia or bulimia when they actually fit the criteria for Orthorexia.


Orthorexia is a disorder in which someone focuses on eating foods that are “pure” and “healthy” until it turns into an obsession that rules their daily life. Symptoms include anxiety when eating food prepared by someone else, self-loathing, and putting one’s diet ahead of family, social, and work-related commitments. Ironically, this obsession can lead to an unhealthy diet in which the individual stops eating nutrients deemed unhealthy based on poor evidence.

Capgras Syndrome

This delusional disorder occurs when an individual believes that someone they know has been “replaced” by an imposter. In emergency rooms, Capgras syndrome is commonly misdiagnosed as atypical psychosis. However, it is actually strongly tied to neurodegenerative disorders, brain injuries, and schizophrenia.

Diogenes Syndrome

Diogenes syndrome is commonly misdiagnosed as a hoarding disorder. Both illnesses are characterized by an inability to get rid of useless items, including trash and organic waste. Unlike traditional hoarding, however, the symptoms of Diogenes syndrome also include an inability to take care of one’s self, extreme social isolation, and apathy. It’s usually diagnosed in senior citizens who have been unable to recover from a stressful life event.


In order to get the clearest diagnosis, it’s important for an individual to disclose their symptoms as accurately as possible. This means describing one’s mood, how the symptoms have changed one’s daily life, and how one pictures their ideal life. When the most details are described, the physician will be better able to pinpoint rare and commonly under-diagnosed illnesses.



Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.

Please also review our various certifications for Counselors below.

If you would like to learn more about Grief Counseling, Stress Management, Anger Management, Crisis Intervention or Spiritual Counseling then please review our various certifications for Counselors that are offered by AIHCP.

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