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Malingering and PTSD

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PTSD is often criticized because it is extremely easy to feign.  Most of the symptoms are entirely subjective and hard to independently verify.  The current issue of  Psychological Injury and Law has several articles on the purposed changes to the PTSD diagnosis in the upcoming DSM-V.   The lead article by Michael B. First sets the pace:

This commentary focuses on the proposed changes to the trauma stressor criterion for PTSD for DSM-5, specifically its likely impact on malingering. PTSD is particularly susceptible to malingering because the diagnosis relies so heavily on a patient's subjective symptoms. Because the traumatic event that is the trigger of the PTSD syndrome is generally based on objective fact and thus often easily corroborated, this element of the diagnosis is usually more challenging to malinger than subjective reports of symptoms. Therefore, one of the main gateways for limiting the misuse of the PTSD diagnosis in forensic settings is the criterion defining the range of qualifying traumas. Proposed changes to criterion A of PTSD in the draft include modifying the types of qualifying trauma by replacing "threat to physical integrity" with "sexual violation," and clarifying the modes of exposure by replacing the phrase "confronted with" with two criterion: "learning that the event occurred to a close relative or close friend" and "experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the event." Each of these changes has the potential to significantly broaden the range of qualifying stressors and consequently expand the potential pool of individuals who might be in a position to malinger the disorder. Given the likelihood that the DSM-5 field trials will be unable to provide information relevant to assessing the impact of making these changes in forensic settings, it would be prudent to resist the inclination to tinker with the wording unless other mechanisms are available to ensure that the wording changes do more good than harm.


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