Malingering is a puzzling condition in which a person feigns mental or physical illness of some kind, usually for a “secondary gain,” meaning that they are trying to get something out of it. This can be for the attention and sympathy sometimes of medical personnel, for financial gain, or to get out of responsibilities like work, school or military obligations. Malingering is different from factitious disorders like Munchausen’s Syndrome, in which the objective is an unconscious desire for the “patient role.” Malingering is then not a physical disorder, and it’s not an unconscious disorder like somatoform disorder. It is a deliberate attempt to fool medical personnel for some kind of gain.

Signs of Malingering:

  • Exaggerated, dramatic presentation of symptoms
  • Inconsistent details
  • Unusual and uncommon textbook knowledge of medical conditions
  • Record of multiple admissions to various hospitals
  • Acceptance of the risk of medical procedures and surgeries
  • Symptoms only present when people are around to see them
  • Substance abuse
  • Disruptive, attention seeking behavior while in hospital
  • Few visitors during hospital stay
  • Desire for drugs

Damaging Effects of Malingering

The effects of Malingering are damaging in different ways. First, Malingering is damaging to the malingerer’s life and productivity. Because they are not actually suffering from a physical disorder, it serves as a waste of time when they could be doing something productive for themselves. Malingering is also damaging to a person’s psychological health.

Malingering is very damaging to society, in that it is draining to the workforce, military, social security, workers compensation, insurance benefits and medical resources. Basically, lot of money is spent for absolutely no reason, or for fraudulent reasons.

Treatment for Malingering

Because Malingering is a psychological disorder, treatment is psychological. The underlying causes of Malingering vary, so treatment varies as well. Sometimes Malingering is used only as financial gain; other times there are more psychological issues to be dealt with. So, treatment usually consists of psychotherapy, family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or pharmacotherapy. Although Malingerers do waste many resources, they are still entitled to the same medical attention as everyone else.

What Should You Do?

Most likely, if you are guilty of Malingering, you aren’t willing to admit it or change it. But if you know someone who is guilty of Malingering, it’s important to try to help him or her recognize that it’s crucial to stop. It’s an incredibly unhealthy and unproductive way of life, and it is draining to all those who surround them. A form of therapy is usually the best bet for helping someone with Malingering, but they must be willing to admit that they don’t need the medical attention.

Links and Resources for Further Reading

  • Informative document on factitious disorders and Malingering.
  • E-medicine page about Malingering
  • Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders

Review Sources

  • Wikipedia – Wikipedia page about malingering, causes, symptoms, and treatment.
  • PDF Chapter of Malingering – PDF from a university about Malingering, including cases and difference from other disorders.
  • Emedicine – Emedicine information about malingering, including statistics on damage to society.
  • Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders – Encyclopedic entry about Malingering and it’s harmful effects.

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