(Jan. 10, 2017) Search YouTube for “schizophrenia symptoms,” and you will find about 70,000 videos. Narrow it down further to “schizophrenia patient,” and you will come up with around 48,000.
The general public formulates concepts and opinions about psychiatric diseases based in part on what they see on the world’s third most-popular Internet site. So do medical students.
The trouble with these schizophrenia representations, according to a new study, is that most of the YouTube depictions are wrong, and they create a distorted picture of the condition that likely contributes to patient stigmatization by physicians.
Videos a “Distorted Picture”
For “Schizophrenia on YouTube” in the January 2017 issue of Psychiatric Services, Matthew M. Nour and colleagues scoured YouTube for a two-week period in 2015 to identify videos claiming to show footage of people with signs and symptoms of acute schizophrenia (SZ). They started with 21 search terms, such as “schizophrenia experience,” “schizophrenia symptoms” and “schizophrenia patient” and ultimately identified 4,200 videos for further screening. Once duplicates and others that were outside the study criteria were excluded (e.g., videos of children or less than 10 seconds in length), 55 videos met the study’s eligibility criteria, and 35 contained enough content to assess.
Two consultant psychiatrists independently assessed each of the qualifying videos for probable psychiatric diagnosis, depiction of psychopathology and whether the video was appropriate for teaching medical students the signs and symptoms of acute psychosis in schizophrenia. Viewer comments, ratings and other extraneous information were concealed from the reviewers.
The research team’s conclusion based on the assessments: “Schizophrenia presentations on YouTube offer a distorted picture of the condition.”
Specifically, they found:
Only one-third (12) of the videos contained signs and symptoms both reviewers agreed were consistent with a diagnosis of SZ. In 10 videos, only one of the reviewers diagnosed SZ.
Another one-third (13) showed behaviors both reviewers agreed was indicative of a psychiatric disease - but not SZ.
Fewer than half the videos contained adequate information to make an informed assessment of the psychopathology of the person involved.
In those that did contain adequate information, fewer than half were deemed to have “good educational utility” for medical students.