Malingering Mental Health Conditions

Malingering  refers to the intentional fabrication or exaggeration of physical or psychological symptoms by an individual.  During our childhood, at least once, we would have pretended to be sick so that we didn’t have to go to school. The behaviour of pretending to be sick, whether physically or mentally, is called malingering. Malingering is known to be a false symptom, an exaggeration of symptoms, or intentionally stating the symptoms in the hope of being rewarded or getting attention or sympathy from others.

For example, someone might pretend to be depressed so that they can get away with work, or a criminal might state that he is mentally sick to get away with the punishment.

It is difficult to detect whether the symptoms are real or fake. Projective tests, personality tests, and other psychological tests are used to detect if the symptoms are true or false. The assessments are administered by a trained psychologist who is qualified and trained to administer and interpret the outcome of the assessment.

What causes malingering?

Malingering is caused by situational factors where the individual wants to escape or gain something out of the situation. Here are a few reasons listed:

  • To get drugs because of their dependence on the drug to get instant relief.
  • To get attention from others—pity or sympathy from others—or to be the centre of attention because of their pretended illness.
  • To get leave from school or work
  • To make others do their work because they don’t want to work on it
  • To avoid legal action.
  • To gain a reward, benefit, or other privilege from others or the government
 What are the signs to look for to identify malingering?
  • Their statements about the symptoms are contradictory.
  • Analyse the persona and their situation to gain an understanding of the context of their situation. Most of the people who claim to have these symptoms are from medical or legal backgrounds.
  • Irregularities with the treatment or follow-up sessions.
  • Compulsive lying
  • Behaviour and its symptoms are inconsistent. Every disorder has criteria that need to be met in order to be diagnosed. One of the criteria is the duration of the symptoms that persist, which is a vital factor that determines whether the individual has the disorder. Check if their symptoms are consistent or inconsistent.
  • The person may or might have antisocial personality disorder.

Using psychometric tools and clinical interviews can give some clarification on whether the symptoms are true or false.


There is no specific treatment for malingering, as it is not a psychological condition. Psychologists should look for cues when there is an ambiguity in arriving at a particular diagnosis of the disorder. For example, there is irrelevancy in their story and symptoms. The client’s cooperation during the evaluation and treatment. Psychological evaluation is highly recommended to identify malingering. Another observation to be made is how the individual stops complaining about their illness once they receive what they desire.

 The information on malingering sounds familiar. Munchausen, which is also known as factitious disorder, is an actual psychological disorder that is imposed on oneself or others. People who suffer from their symptoms do things that are similar to those of people with factitious disorders. The significant difference between malingering and factitious disorder is that malingering is not a psychological condition, and factitious disorder is a psychological disorder.

The difference between malingering and Munchausen Syndrome


Malingering Münchausen syndrome
The person intentionally fakes symptoms of a medical or psychological illness or an injury to themselves. The person intentionally fakes symptoms of a medical or psychological illness or injury to themselves or others.
The person presents only themselves as injured or ill. The person presents themselves or another person as injured or ill.
The deceptive behavior is carried out with the expectation of receiving the benefit or desired outcome. The deceptive behavior is carried out with or without the expectation of receiving the benefit or desired outcome.
Compared to people with factitious disorders, their knowledge of medical and psychological terminologies is less known. They have extensive knowledge of most medical and psychological terminologies. They also know the descriptions of medical diseases and mental disorders.
hesitant to take any medical care. Willing to take medical treatments, get hospitalized, and undergo surgeries.
The complaints and symptoms disappear once their desired goal is met. They come up with new symptoms if one symptom or result is negative.
They are not cooperative in taking up the treatment or with the doctors. They are cooperative with the treatment and the doctors.
There is no history of any illness or treatment. There is a history of any medical or mental illness and a history of seeking treatment.
The focus is only on myself. The focus is on oneself or another person.




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