Malingering is the act of faking or exaggerating symptoms for personal gain. People may fake illness to:
The symptoms may vary. Malingerers tend to complain of problems that are difficult to prove, such as severe pain, anxiety, or stress. Tests such as X-rays and lab tests cannot find a physical cause for the problem.
Malingering may be suspected when:
Diagnosing malingering is a challenge for healthcare providers. On the one hand, the provider does not want to overlook a treatable disease. On the other hand, he or she does not want to continue ordering tests and treatments if the symptoms are faked. If a provider suspects malingering, the person may be referred to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists and psychologists may use certain tests to try to determine whether the person is faking the symptoms.
People who are purposefully faking symptoms for gain do not want to be cured. Often, the malingering patient does not improve with treatment, and the healthcare provider may try many treatments without success.