The detection of malingered post-traumatic stress disorder

Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2006 Sep;29(3):629-47. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2006.04.001.


The detection of malingered PTSD is made particularly challenging by the subjective nature of PTSD criteria and requires a thorough, systematic approach. The psychiatrist must gather and analyze evidence from the evaluation, clinical records, psychologic testing, third parties, and other sources. Although some individuals may malinger PTSD to avoid criminal sanctions, the most common motivation for malingering PTSD is financial gain. Clinical nuances may help distinguish genuine from malingered PTSD. The psychiatrist should be aware of the differences observed between civilian and combat-related PTSD. Although special effort is required, the psychiatrist bears considerable responsibility to assist society in differentiating true PTSD from malingering.Undetected malingering is not limited simply to fraudulent monetary awards, but can involve misuse of limited mental health resources, leading to negative consequences for the mental health system. As Burkett aptly notes, malingered combat PTSD cases "take time, energy, and financial resources away from treating true combat veterans with PTSD. And real combat vets who truly need help end up in group therapy with phonies, get disgusted, and quit treatment".

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Disability / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Malingering / diagnosis*
  • Malingering / psychology
  • Motivation
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality Inventory
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Vietnam