Faking Depression (A guide to coping)

Faking Depression (A guide to coping)

This blog post will explore the concept of faking depression, the two reasons people fake depression, namely, malingering and factitious disorder. We will then outline several indications of somebody faking depression and what you can do to help. Finally, we will see how it sometimes is genuinely depression.  

Faking Depression

Diagnosing a patient with depression or any mental health condition predominantly lies in how they describe their symptoms. There is indeed clinical judgment along with standardized tests, therapist notes, medical records, and clinical interviews that give more insight into the patient’s condition as a means of corroborating their descriptions.

Commonly, people may fake depression because of malingering or as a symptom of a more severe disorder known as a factitious disorder (aka Munchausen Syndrome). People may mimic depressive symptoms to get out of legal issues or claim financial benefits. 

Let us now understand these conditions in more detail. 

Malingering

Malingering is when a patient feels that they can gain something (aka secondary gains) because of a condition. For instance, they might have a monetary incentive or want to escape specific duties. Recognition of malingering is challenging, and hence, mental health professionals might utilize a test like Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS) and Structured Inventory of Malingered Symptomatology (SIMS). 

Additionally, personality tests like Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III) and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) can help identify malingering. 

Symptoms

Although there are no detailed symptoms to recognize malingering, there are specific things you can look out for that indicate a patient may be malingering. These signs include:

  • Inconsistent symptoms;
  • The onset of symptoms overlap with unfortunate occurrences like lawful concerns, army duty, or jury service;
  • A lack of cooperation with recommendations from healthcare professionals; 
  • Differences in descriptions across sources; and
  • Exaggeration of symptoms when compared to examined results.  

Causes

There are no physical causes involved in malingering. Typically, malingering stems from an individual’s urge to receive an incentive or escape an unpleasant situation. However, it can also occur as a symptom of a personality disorder like an antisocial personality disorder. 

The exact frequency of this disorder’s occurrence is challenging to assess. With that said, it usually occurs in particular situations like legal places or clinical settings where there is a monetary incentive or an opportunity to escape disciplinary actions. 

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Factitious Disorder

Factitious disorder is when a person fakes an illness to reap psychological “rewards” or primary gains that come with being sick, like attention and care.

Symptoms

There are specific signs that indicate a person has a factitious disorder. These signs include: 

  • Unclear and inconsistent symptoms;
  • Staying in the clinic or hospital often;
  • Excessive knowledge of clinical jargon and disorders;
  • “Doctor shopping” or seeking consultations and interventions from multiple doctors. They may even use fake names;
  • Symptoms that get worse unreasonably;
  • Desire to receive tests and dangerous operations often;
  • Illnesses that are unresponsive to conventional interventions;
  • Getting into arguments with physicians;
  • Being infrequently visited by a very few people at the hospital; and
  • Unwilling when doctors request to converse with family members or close ones 

Indications that Someone is Faking Depression

  • Self-harm
  • Specific situations
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Sympathy
  • Drama or exaggeration
  • Blame game
  • Helplessness 

Self-harm

When somebody fakes depression, they tend to turn toward self-harm. However, when you examine the individual’s injuries, they are likely to be superficial scratches. It is indicative of primary or secondary gains, such as financial incentives or psychological rewards like attention. 

Specific situations

While faking depression, the individual might be “depressed” in specific situations or about particular things. They may be happy for a while and suddenly turn depressed to show that they have a condition. 

Passive-aggressiveness

Be on the lookout for passive-aggressiveness, as this tendency is typically seen in people who actively seek attention. Therefore, people who are faking depression tend to display passive-aggressiveness.

Sympathy 

Most of the people who fake depression 

is not fully aware of how depression manifests or what the condition means in its entirety. Instead, they tend to equate depression with sympathy and associated attention. They are only interested in incentives, escapism, and psychological gains that come with depression. 

Drama or exaggeration

When people are genuinely depressed, they tend to be reserved and socially withdrawn. They may seem all smiles and like they are happy, but they are generally not dramatic. People who fake depression, on the other hand, are after compensations and attention 

Blame game

They tend to blame others for their condition if probed into their depression. People who are genuinely suffering from depression are more likely to stay silent or not talk back. Most people with depression tend to feel guilty and blame themselves for unpleasant occurrences and give credit to external factors for pleasant ones. 

What Can You Do?

Sometimes, we may mistake people who are genuinely suffering from a condition like depression to be feigning it merely because they are smiling or seem cheerful outwardly. Such external cues can be misleading, and we may assume that they are not depressed.

Remember that you are only observing isolated events. The chief determinant of depression is the individual’s overall quality of life. You may not be able to notice symptoms like sleep difficulties, a lack of motivation to perform fundamental activities, and trouble focusing on tasks. 

Although they may be faking illness, keep in mind that the manifestations of depression can in itself be challenging to recognize. A majority of the symptoms are psychological. Therefore, even if they seem normal, it is likely that they have merely learned to look okay in public when they are battling difficulties on the inside. 

A majority of them do suffer from a disabling condition. Therefore, instead of doubting these individuals, encourage them to seek professional help. Allow the mental health professional to understand their problems. 

Sometimes It Is Actual Depression

Many people suffering from depression tend to have moments where they doubt the genuineness of their condition. They may begin feeling like they are faking their illness regardless of the symptoms and interventions. Here are some of the things you might feel when you second-guess the reality of your difficulty and corresponding suggestions.  

  • Seeking attention
  • Comparisons 
  • Laughing implies being okay
  • “I should…”
  • Undeserving of help
  • Depression as an excuse 

Seeking attention

You might think that you are using the condition to seek attention, and it is understandable as the media and other sources throw the words “attention-seeking” around carelessly. So, you might pick up on such happenings, consciously or otherwise, and start believing it. 

However, remind yourself that you are not doing it for attention. Typically, you are seeking care, and that is okay. You need help to begin your healing process. 

Comparisons 

You start denying yourself the help you need and deserve by telling yourself that your issues are trivial in comparison to those of others. So, you start convincing yourself that you are not ill. 

Doing this is analogous to denying yourself happiness because there are people who are doing better. Remember that people are different and deal with different environments. Therefore, naturally, everybody has various issues; one is not better or worse than the other. Depression does not differentiate. It afflicts young and old, the rich and poor alike.  

Laughing implies being okay

Sometimes you might find yourself laughing or smiling or feeling alright. Specific people or situations might make you feel better, so you automatically assume that you cannot have depression if you feel okay at those times. 

It is flawed thinking, as an infrequent laugh or two does not indicate feigning depression. Depressed people have bad days and good days. The good days do not negate the bad ones. It no way conveys a lack of illness, or worse, faking one.  

“I should…”

You might frequently have thoughts like, “I should just” shower, get out of bed, eat, clean, and engage in other activities. There may be feelings of faking depression and that you merely need to get yourself together.  

Learn self-compassion. Understand that you do not deserve such harshness and self-criticism. Remember that you require support, care, and compassion from others and yourself. You are doing your best to keep moving, which is everything that you and others can ask of yourself.  

Undeserving of help

You might think that because you are not genuinely sick, you do not deserve support and help. 

Depression in itself can make you feel unworthy and undeserving of kindness and care. A symptom of depression is feelings of hopelessness. You are not to blame for your condition, and you deserve all the love, help, and care that you need and can get to heal. 

Depression as an excuse 

You might feel that you are not actually depressed and are faking it to get out of responsibilities or blame for some action. Additionally, you might think that you are lazy, asocial, an emotional burden, or broken. 

You start believing that you are not socially withdrawn but simply asocial; you do not engage in activities because you are lazy; you do not have trouble concentrating but merely dumb.  

You are not using depression to pardon yourself from something. Depression is a debilitating condition and not something you are faking. 

The bottom line is that if you think you are suffering from depression, reach out to your physician or a mental health professional at once. You are worthy and deserve appropriate care. Remember to be compassionate and kind to yourself. 

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Conclusion

In this blog post, we explored the concept of faking depression. We understood the reasons and indications of faking depression. We also learned how to help someone who feigns the illness while gaining insights into actual depression being misconstrued as feigning it. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Faking Depression

How do you know when somebody fakes a psychological condition? 

There are several ways to tell if somebody is faking a psychological condition. While feigning mental illnesses, people tend to:

  • Exaggerate their symptoms
  • Engage in self-harm albeit superficially;
  • Fake medical records and history;
  • Partake in malingering; and 
  • Fabricate medical evaluations 

How can you believe you are mentally ill?

When you feign symptoms of a psychological condition, you engage in self-deception of sorts and start believing that you are genuinely experiencing the illness. 

How can you tell if an individual is faking psychosis?

You can tell if an individual is faking psychosis (malingering), if they are dramatic of their psychosis, contradict their stories, seek attention, experience sudden delusions, and try to intimidate their therapist, psychologist, or other mental health professional.

How do you describe Ganser syndrome?

Ganser syndrome is an uncommon dissociative disorder where a healthy individual purposely pretends to have a psychological or physical condition. They imitate behaviors that are commonly seen in a mental illness like psychosis. 

People with Ganser syndrome may give absurd or approximate answers to straightforward questions (known as vorbeireden), seem confused, and experience hallucinations.

References

https://www.verywellmind.com/faking-depression-1066887

 

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Ananya Ramesh is a mental health professional with a master's degree in clinical psychology. She has unconditional passion and sincerity toward working with psychologically distressed populations, specifically young adults and middle-aged people. Apart from this, she takes an abundant interest in producing and refining content related to mental health, psychology, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Outside of work, she enjoys reading and sketches portraits.