Malingering is the purposeful production of falsely or grossly exaggerated physical and/or psychological symptoms with the goal of receiving a reward. This reward may include money, an insurance settlement, drugs, release from incarceration, or the avoidance of punishment, work, jury duty, the military, or some other kind of service. A malingerer may, for example, attempt to raise the temperature of a thermometer through heat from a lamplight, or alter a urine sample by adding sand to it. Some cases of malingering are easy to detect. However, if the malingerer is more discrete, a clinician may have great difficulty gathering evidence for an accurate diagnosis.
Malingering is not a psychiatric disorder. It is similar to, but distinct from, factitious disorder, in which an individual fakes symptoms without a concrete motive of reward. Malingering is also separate from somatic symptom disorder, in which a person experiences real psychological distress from imagined or exaggerated symptoms. Malingering can lead to abuse of the medical system, with unnecessary tests being performed and time taken away from other patients.