Malingering of PTSD: forensic and diagnostic considerations, characteristics of malingerers and clinical presentations

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2006 Nov-Dec;28(6):525-35. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2006.08.011.


Objective: This paper aims to study the detection of individuals malingering posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in criminal and civil situations.

Method: A brief history of PTSD and its rise to prominence in legal circles are discussed. The characteristics of individuals who malinger and particularly those who fake PTSD are discussed. Diagnostic dilemmas inherent to the condition, such as the definition of a traumatic exposure, what constitutes a PTSD flashback and the potential for normal symptom exaggeration, are explored.

Results: The typical presentation of malingered symptoms is presented to help clinicians detect commonly seen malingering patterns. Suggestions for interview techniques, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test values and sources of collateral information to help detect malingering are reviewed.

Conclusion: The paper concludes with a review of the typical presentations of malingered PTSD symptoms and a reminder that physicians need to distinguish legitimate symptoms from faked or embellished presentations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods*
  • Humans
  • MMPI
  • Malingering / diagnosis*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*