Factitious Disorder vs. Malingering

The two terms Factitious Disorder and Malingering can easily be mixed up as they are somewhat similar. There are some attributes that might differentiate them, even though the differences between the terms are based on psychological theory, and there is a lack of supporting evidence. Both malingering and factitious disorders comprehend patients that fabricate an illness, either in the sense of a mental or physical illness, or both. (Martins, 2021). However, from a psychological point of view, malingering leans more towards a specific goal motivated by external factors. While factitious disorder seems to lack a reason for personal gain. 

Malingering is defined as a purposeful production of falsely or grossly exaggerated physical and/or psychological symptoms with the goal of receiving a reward. (Martins, 2021). They will have  a goal that is easily detectable, such as avoiding military service or responsibilities, or criminal responsibilities. In other words, they have a goal in which they desire something or want to achieve something, and their motivation usually derives from external factors. It is not described as a disorder in the DSM-5, however, it might be considered as a condition that could have use of clinical attention. (Alozai & McPherson, 2021). 

Factitious disorder has the main goal of receiving sympathy and attention from others and their symptoms are self-made. Except for sympathy, attention and a possible psychological need to be a patient, there are no obvious reasons for personal gain. (Caselli, et al., 2017), (Martins, 2021). If the disorder is prolonged and is referred to as chronic, it will be referred to as Munchausen's syndrome. It is also possible that someone fabricates or forces an illness on others; it is called factitious disorder by proxy. For instance, a parent forges signs of illness of their child, a good example picturing this disorder is shown in the series “Sharp Objects” (2018), produced by Marti Noxon. 

The most apparent difference between malingering and factitious disorder is that the deceit within malingering is motivated by external factors, whereas factitious disorder has no evident reason to fabricate an illness.


Alozai, U. U. & McPherson, P. K. (2021). Malingering. NCBI. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507837/

Caselli, I., Poloni, N., Ielmini, M., Diurni, M. & Callegari, C. (2017). Epidemiology and evolution of the diagnostic classification of factitious disorders in DSM-5. NCBI. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5729833/

Martins, S. (2021). Psychopathology: Psychopathology of Memory. [Slide 33-36]. UEM.blackboard. Retrieved from: https://uem.blackboard.com/

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