Psychological and Social Perspectives on Malingering and Symptom Exaggeration: Conceptualization and Interventions Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Capstone Project

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Michael Karson

Second Advisor

John McNeill

Third Advisor

Jeremiah Dwyer


Behavior/CBT, Commitment therapy, Acceptance, Somatoform disorders, Factitious disorder, Malingering, Qualitative Research, Case Study


Malingering and the production of false symptoms seen in such disorders as Factitious Disorder are an ongoing mystery to medical and mental health professionals. Historically, these presentations have been difficult to identify and treat. As might be expected, individuals with such symptomology rarely agree to participate in research, possibly because of a reluctance to admit to the feigning or exaggerating behaviors and a fear of reprisals. Many different etiologies have been proposed, including the assumption of roles in order to manage impressions, taking control of symptoms in order to gain attention or other rewards or avoid aversive events, and even the production of symptoms that is largely out of awareness such as is seen in conversion or somatoform presentations. By examining historical and present-day beliefs about etiology and treatment interventions, professionals can explore what new types of effective treatment might look like. The behaviorist philosophy that underlies Acceptance and Commitment Therapy proposes a perspective emphasizing effective working in context. This philosophy also suggests individuals sometimes engage in behavior in order to escape from or avoid aversive experiences. Utilizing case examples and fresh behavioral perspectives provides insight and ideas for conceptualization of these behaviors of interest. Using the above conceptualizations, an ACT based treatment of those who produce false symptoms is introduced.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


43 pages

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