Clinical Symptom Presentation in Suspected Malingerers: An Empirical Investigation

L. T. Kucharski, W. Ryan, J. Vogt and E. Goodloe,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 26(4): 579-585, 1998.
To empirically investigate the usefulness and validity of clinical presentation and recent history variables in the detection of malingered psychiatric disorder, 30 criminal defendants involved in forensic evaluations, who had a documented history of psychiatric hospitalization preceding their arrest on the instant offense (low risk of malingering group) and 30 defendants who complained of psychiatric difficulties but had no history of psychiatric hospitalization or treatment (suspected malingering group) were studied. Each subject's mental status was rated, blind to psychiatric history, diagnosis, and psycholegal opinions, on a Likert-like scale for the uncommon nature of their symptom presentation. In addition, the final outcome of the court cases, whether they were found competent to stand trial, not guilty by reason of insanity, or evidenced diminished capacity was determined by obtaining the court disposition in each case. Based on the unusual nature of their presentation, the defendants suspected of malingering were discriminated from the low risk of malingering defendants with a 90 percent rate of correct classification. Suspected malingerers were found to evidence current psychiatric presentations inconsistent with their recent Global Assessment of Functioning, unusual symptom presentation, and hallucinatory experiences rated as atypical for psychiatric disorder. A high proportion of suspected malingerers were found competent to proceed. The results are discussed in terms of the usefulness of clinical identification of malingering.