Aims – A narrative review of studies on the information needs of psychiatric patients, the knowledge of their diagnosis and treatment expectations. Methods – A literature review, limited to studies between 1980 to 2003, was carried out using Medline and Psychlnfo databases. Results – Sixty five studies of interest were identified. Less than half of the psychiatric patients know their diagnosis and patients affected by schizophrenia are the least informed. Notions about aetiology and treatment are patchy, and the concept of ‘multifactorial cause’ seems unknown. Little knowledge emerged about drugs and side effects, expecially in the long term. Patients want to be informed, involved in decisions and their treatment programme. They feel that their psychiatrists are more interested in pharmacological aspects than in their personal problems. Conclusions – A better quality of communication, the involvement of patients in decision processes and meeting patients' information needs is necessary to improve therapeutic relationships, to encourage greater compliance with treatment programs and to reduce the stigma of psychiatric illness.
Declaration of Interest: none of the three authors has had any interest or received any form of support, including that from drug companies and honoraria for lectures and consultancies, potentially in conflict with this scientific work.