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Psychiatr Serv. 2012;63(5):482-7. doi: 10.1176/

Major depressive disorder with psychosis-like symptoms among Latinos.

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Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, 1 Bowdoin Square, Sixth Floor, Boston, MA 02114, USA.



The lifetime prevalence of psychosis-like symptoms among Latinos living in the United States is 9.5%, and up to 27% of Latinos with major depressive disorder also experience psychosis-like symptoms. Yet clinicians remain uncertain about the nature and clinical implications of these putative psychotic symptoms, and there is no consensus about treatment strategies. The authors conducted a review of the literature to examine the epidemiology, clinical features, and significance of psychosis-like symptoms among Latinos, particularly when such symptoms present with major depressive disorder, and the strategies to treat them.


A search of the National Library of Medicine was conducted for all articles published through February 2011 by using the keywords "Hispanic" and "Latino" with "depression and psychotic," with "idiom of distress," and with "psychotic."


A total of 37 articles were reviewed. In clinical settings, the prevalence of psychosis-like symptoms among cross-sections of Latino patients ranged from 22% to 46% and was even higher among Latino veterans. Psychosis-like symptoms were associated with higher medical and psychiatric comorbidity and greater suicidality, functional impairment, and utilization of services. The authors describe the types of psychosis-like symptoms experienced by Latinos and propose criteria for the differential diagnosis of such symptoms and typical psychotic features.


Clinicians treating depressed Latinos are often confronted with the clinical dilemma of whether to augment antidepressants with an antipsychotic. The authors argue that atypical psychotic symptoms experienced by Latinos with major depressive disorder are nonpsychotic manifestations and that antipsychotic medication should be delayed unless treatment of depression fails to address the psychosis-like symptoms.

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