Exaggeration or faking of psychological symptoms is a serious problem in Worker's Compensation, disability or personal injury cases because the accuracy of information provided by the plaintiff (injured person) is critical in determination of psychological damages resulting from injury. This is particularly so when damages include psychological symptoms or mental disorders because, unlike physical injuries, there are no x-rays or other tests that can definitively show that an individual is in fact suffering from emotional distress.
Some scientific studies have shown that untrained individuals can easily exaggerate or fake symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, on psychological tests. The reason this can be done by individuals who have little knowledge of psychological matters is that most psychological tests in common use today lack any kind of mechanism to determine that an individual has not responded honestly to a psychological test.
Because of a number of factors, such as time and money limitations, psychologists and psychiatrists often do not utilize the more comprehensive tests that have demonstrated effectiveness in determining that an individual has exaggerated or faked psychological symptoms. Typically, mental health professionals who are providing treatment to an injured person do not engage in efforts to identify exaggeration or faking of psychological symptoms because exaggeration or faking are believed to be relatively rare phenomena in such settings or because the skeptical attitude on the part of the treating doctor suggested by his or her evaluation of exaggeration or faking can be construred by the patient as evidence of mistrust by the psychotherapist. This perceived lack of trust in what the patient is telling the doctor can be harmful in a treatment relationship because trust by the patient in the doctor may be one necessary and important element of successful treatment.
However, individuals who are already in treatment or who begin treatment for psychological problems after a personal or work accident, sometimes seek legal redress for their injuries. Subsequently, the treating doctor can be called upon to provide written reports or courtroom testimony about their treatment. Because the treating doctor had no way of knowing that a legal case was forthcoming, he or she did not have a reason to administer time-consuming and expensive psychological tests designed to identify exaggeration or faking. In this situation, the testimony that can be offered by the treating doctor is based on clinical interviews or notes of treatment sessions. If the treating doctor's patient has been exaggerating or faking psychological symptoms in the treatment setting for the purpose of enhancing a future legal claim, this may be unknown to the treating doctor.
Most research shows that clinical interview alone, without specialized psychological testing, is not an effective method for identifying exaggeration or faking of psychological symptoms or mental disorders.
Only specialized tests such as Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), SIRS and M-FAST have been shown to be effective in identifying exaggerated or faked psychological symptoms.