Malingering and psychopathy: a likely connection

By:  Linda Hartoonian Almas, M.S. Ed

There may be a correlation between psychopathy and malingering.  Some studies support that increased PCL-R (psychopathy checklist) scores correspond with an increased potential for malingering, while others are less conclusive.  Regardless, if psychopathic individuals, or those with such features, seek to gain or avoid something through manipulations, they are good at bringing their intentions to fruition.

What is malingering?

Malingering is defined as intentionally making up or exaggerating medical or mental symptoms in an attempt to avoid one or a variety of responsibilities.  It is an intentional misrepresentation of facts in an effort to appear unable to work, or to fulfill other obligations.  Additionally, with this avoidance, comes an external reward or some form of perceived personal gain.  Often, malingerers see no other ways to achieve their avoidance goals.

Why do they do it?

This external payoff may come in the form of “getting something for nothing,” through unemployment or disability benefits, avoiding punishments in some circumstances, or getting out of having to perform what they consider to be undesirable tasks, and more.

The specific reasons and presentations may be as numerous, but the motivations are relatively consistent.  Mainly, there’s something they must do, but don’t want to or feel they need to.

How do they malinger?

It is common for malingerers to feign mental or psychiatric conditions over physical maladies. They may feel that these are easier to fake, since diagnostic methods may be more difficult to quantify.

If malingerers claimed broken arms, for example,  x-rays could quickly negate any false claims.  The same is true for many other physical ailments.

However, it is easier to claim stress or distress, or a variety of other mental afflictions, that may render malingerers “unable” to work or make good on their obligations.  In fact, they may even blame us for their “illnesses.”

Pathological lying and manipulation

With a primary element of malingering being intentional deception, it makes sense then that psychopathic individuals, or those with psychopathic traits, may be likely to engage in successful malingering.  Two prominent traits psychopaths exhibit are pathological lying and manipulative and deceptive behaviors.  Both are necessary in order to malinger successfully.

Most of what psychopaths say is false, or laced only with grains of truth that are usually seriously distorted.  Since they lie and distort with ease, and manipulate people and circumstances to achieve what they want, it is easy to see how they are able to manage malingering successfully.

Parasitic lifestyle

Furthermore, it is common for individuals with psychopathic traits to live parasitic lifestyles.  They are often careless, putting us in situations that cause us distress for their own gain or pleasure.  Initially, they may look like our soul mates, wonderful long lost relatives, or saviors.  They may come bearing gifts and making promises.

However, we quickly learn that most of what they offered came with conditions.  The promises failed to materialize, and that they, in fact, arrived on the scene to live off of us.

They may even put us in positions to pity them, fight for them, or defend them.  Eventually, we realize that they view life to be about their needs, rather than those they are obligated to.  Parasitic.

Why is this relevant?

When we unknowingly become close with psychopaths, we are going to be touched by this in some way, at some point in time.  “The right thing” may be something they spend a lot of time addressing, but very little time actually doing.

Since it is common for individuals with psychopathic traits to fail to make good on their obligations and responsibilities, it is worth understanding.

When they find themselves in too deep, and it is impossible for them to shirk their responsibilities in any other fashion, they may simply choose to take themselves out of commission.

Practical application

Although malingering can take place for a variety of purposes and in a variety of different ways, let us examine the possibility of a parent doing so to escape paying child support.  Many readers have probably experienced this, as it is a common challenge among those dealing with individuals exhibiting such traits.  The motivations for attempting to eliminate the support may be numerous, but are less significant than the actual act.

It is true that many good people, who genuinely care deeply, are simply sometimes unable to adequately provide.  However, in cases where we suspect malingering, it is critical to assess the big picture.

What is the history?  What are some of their attitudes displayed prior to the malingering?  Were there inconsistencies in stories or statements?  Was it clear that elusive measures were being contemplated?  Were the actions and the words, again, failing to match over time?

Are other bills going unpaid?  Is there a telling history regarding who they are choosing to pay and who they are choosing not to?  Is there a history of bankruptcies?  Do most of the “explanations” begin with blame and end with lack of ownership and reasonable solutions?

Well intended individuals are typically not be satisfied with offering next to nothing significant for support, regardless of circumstances.  Additionally, those who have genuinely lost the capacity to perform in their chosen careers often acquire new and different skills or do whatever it takes to contribute similarly and meaningfully.

Further, they do not lie about their intentions, indicating that they will provide in one respect and then not follow through when the opportunities present themselves.
When malingering is present, attitudes of complacency, or even satisfaction with the situations they have created may be present.   

Is malingering possible to prove?

It is possible that medical professionals or evaluators can prove malingering?  Like many other behaviors psychopaths display, the malingering is no different, in that they tend to lack the consistency that  individuals who are truly suffering exhibit.  Those too ill to work or perform duties, for example, may also be unable to recreate or participate in activities that would otherwise bring them joy.

However, successful malingerers may continue on with other activities, or even engage in things they would not otherwise participate in.  In essence, out of work may translate into on vacation.

Actual symptoms of certain conditions they are faking often look much different, as well.  They may go through the motions of doing what needs to be done in order to appear “ill” or to “recover,” but their actions still tend to look different than those who are legitimate.

Again, while assessing, it is important to examine the circumstances collectively.  Does the individual have something to gain by malingering?  If it appears that they may, that is a good indicator that they are malingering.

All the while, it is important to remember that a normal person’s interpretation of something to gain, and theirs, may look very different.  Thus, making their intentions easier to conceal, unless reminded of the need for this awareness.

It may be necessary for providers and employers to ask probing questions, observe carefully, and gather pertinent outside information.  The words cannot be trusted and taken at face value.

If clinicians consider all of the circumstances, and do even a small amount of research, they may come to know that further investigation may be necessary.  Unfortunately, this is not always a priority until the issue comes into the forefront, somehow.

Who would do this?

It may seem odd that there are individuals who choose to engage in these behaviors.  Aren’t they  coincidentally harming themselves?

While that depends on individual circumstances, in many cases, they are.  Nonetheless, the payoff that they are attempting to achieve may override logic and reasoning.  Their eyes are on the prize, so to speak.  Yes, that sometimes defies logic, which is another reason this may seem unbelievable.

Remember, we are not discussing a portion of the population that typically acts with anyone’s  best interests in mind.  Strangely enough, although they mainly act selfishly, sometimes, this even extends to mean their own.

As it is becoming my mantra, I will close with the suggestion that we take comfort in the understanding.  It will allow for peace amongst disorder.


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43 Comments on "Malingering and psychopathy: a likely connection"

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My Dears slimone and hens: I am going to answer you both at the same time, if you don’t mind…..

Thanks slim for your vote of confidence. xxoo
It has taken a lot of tried and trued attempts to figure this out and I just want to share what I found has worked for me. I didn’t take a lot of advice I was given and I had to learn the hard way. I had to learn by taking the abuse. I was going to ‘save’ it – ‘help’ it; ‘fix it’; I loved the lie I was being sold…while the whole time, that’s just it: it was a lie and a manipulation. I allowed it to happen by not standing up for myself, thinking I was doing the right thing and it wasn’t at all.

Dear hens: Thank you for telling me to be careful. “IT” IS crazy and dangerous. Unfortunately, I didn’t figure that out for the first five years of our ten year acquaintance. I actually let a violent psychopath that close to me without an inkling all that time. When I started to spurn his attentions, as it were, that is when things got ugly and violent….when the threats on my life started and when I think I actually SAW his head spinning around in circles, a couple of times, if I am not mistaken.

I have basically been ‘hiding out’ the past 2-1/2 years, waiting for the fulfillment of these threats, until it dawned on me that by cutting myself out of life it was only continuing this battle of wills…he was still getting what he wants by threatening me and cutting a lot of life off and away from me, through that control.

I am not going to give him that much importance anymore. I have placed protection around me that leaves absolutely NO DOUBT on my part or on “ITS” behalf, that this security WILL PREVAIL. Make no mistake about that. NO BODY threatens my life and still sits in my living room and has tea, although he has tried that approach on me as well, from time to time.

Yes, 12 days is nothing…the last NC period lasted 9 months until I stupidly BROKE it relaying an important piece of information. It was never ME responding, MOST OF THE TIME but rather HIM STALKING ME….That was my fault, breaking it the last time. I admit that. AT NO TIME FOR NOTHING SHOULD A PERSON BREAK IT. FOR NO REASON. EITHER MEAN IT OR DONT. I HAD EVERY GOOD INTENTION WHEN AND I DID and all it got me was more of the same, so, I look at it like this: WHY SHOULD I CONTINUE TO TAKE ABUSE FROM SOMEONE LIKE THAT? We were not married; never boyfriend and girlfriend, not really, even though THAT was the bill of goods I was being sold. We never lived together or had kids, nothing..I owe him absolutely nothing yet he acted like I owed him everything. Amazing. And when I would not do his beck and call, I was threatened and scorned and put down…oh yes, there are people like this in the world…

I have blocked all the numbers, his and his ‘minions’ and there have been plenty along the way, all strangers that don’t really know me nor I them…they have harassed and stalked me as much as he has. His ‘tribe’ , his ‘worker bees’, which includes just about everyone he runs into and has bedded, most of them he has picked up offline and they are all older and most of them wealthy and/or financially secure….

I have blocked threats to him, through me, that has come my way just by association. Once I pulled his mask off and exposed him for the person I really know he is now, that is when things started to get really ugly. I have a little life left, after my massive heart attack and I really don’t want it filled with all this crap. Life is in serious mode now. I have spent the past 3 years, of the 5 that have been a nightmare – caused by a psychopathic and violent stalker, researching and reading and trying to figure out what this was that has plagued my world…

The last few threats before that 9 months NC was something just like out of a psycho “B” movie, seriously…but even though the stalking continued, it was peaceful except for the constant stalking. I have never really had a time in the past ten years that hasn’t been constant drama and chaos. Filled with ugliness, threats, inconsideration’s and a whole lot of things most movie makers wouldn’t even realize…you know, that “B” class psycho movie genre…that is exactly what it has been like.

A lifetime of non communication wouldn’t be long enough for me now. NOW that I know what this is about and what it is about is control and jealousy. Love and kindness has nothing to do with it. I was ‘targeted’ specifically but the one thing I had going for me was that I didn’t have enough money for him. He is used to having more…having as much as he can get…which is all of it, in control, domination and financially.

I know so much about him, it makes it dangerous for me. But I have a whole city worth of protection which he has came to be acquainted with on several occasions on his escorts out of town. He has threatened judges, lawyers and policing agencies, as well, and is not a very ‘popular’ person. He walks on the fringe too well. Very intelligent when it comes to law and finances. Has told me on a couple of occasions that all women are whores and as long as you bed them well, they will give you whatever you want….

I am not afraid anymore, hens. I am standing tall and strong and firm, NOBODY does to me what he has and then threatens me on top of it because he is afraid he will go to jail. NOBODY. I am not a person to cower but the things I have experienced can never be realized by anyone but myself and every single one was a nightmare. I am not one to usually be ‘afraid’ but this ‘being’ made my blood run cold. It has left me in shock. I was absolutely controlled. Absolutely. I never did anything illegal for him but he captured my soul completely and dominated me for a very long time through intense conditioning and manipulation and once the layers started peeling back for me, that’s when it got ugly; when I started standing up for myself and saying “NO”. I see how Charles Manson got away with controlling his ‘herd’.

Exactly right: No contact means you are ready to let go, forever. And there is no coming back or going back. It’s a final decision. I have made mine and I put “IT” on notice that the stalking and manipulation and contact, in any way whatsoever, from this moment forward is not welcomed and shall be considered criminal stalking and I meant every single word. And I have LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS OF BACK UP.

NO CONTACT IS the only weapon you have that will save you when you get involved with something like I have. It is not easy. It is difficult, especially when you have been ‘conditioned’ to react and live a certain way, slowly, over time, but you have to realize it for what it is and break free of those chains if you want to have any hope for survival at all. Because, believe me, if you don’t give them what they want, whatever it might be, whether it is ‘winning’ an argument; ‘your money’; ‘your sex’; whatever it is they want from you…if you don’t give it to them, you suddenly become something they hate and want to destroy. These are people who do not let ‘reflection’ of any kind whatsoever into their life. They are obsession driven and they won’t ever change. I have seen evil, firsthand, up close and personal like. Evil does not have a conscious nor remorse.

I can so relate hens: “When I went no contact, I thought I was turning away the love of my life, maybe so, but better to be alive than dead.”
No truer words spoken, my friend.

Love you hens; you hang in there…you so ‘shine’…xxoo


Dupey, I have not endured anything like you write about. I just want you to live free of fear and find some peace and joy. At the same time keep one eye open and a cell phone handy to call for back up. gnite…

(((hens))) Thank you for your wishes.
I am starting to come out of the ‘haze’ now. It’s been quite a while. Always: one eye open…..

I rest absolutely assured in my back up….

G’Nite, hens….xxoo
Sweet dreams.

I finally did it. I blocked him. I didn’t realize until I did it this afternoon (with my daughter’s help) that as long as he was able to call or text me, he still had me. Whether or not I answered was irrelevant because I was still giving him permission to mess with my head. I actually had a hard time blocking him because I was worried how he would feel! Everything I’ve said up until now was only an excuse not to block him. Bless you all for pounding this into my head and bless my wonderful daughter for bugging me all afternoon until I put his number in the little box and pressed submit. I know this doesn’t mean it’s over, but it does put me another step closer.


You have taken the first step to freedom and peace of mind!
I am so very proud of you. I know how difficult it was but don’t give in. Stand your ground and MEAN IT. It’s the only way to take away their power and control over you! Exactly right, you were only allowing him to mess with your head some more!!! Definitely.

Oh my goodness, we need to toughen you up a little more, Bree…HOW ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL? HOW ABOUT HOW YOUR CHILDREN FEEL?

Right, it doesn’t mean it’s over but you ARE one step closer to regaining your empowerment. BLESS YOU!!!!

You have put a smile on my face this morning knowing you ‘got it’. We are here for you, Bree…..wishing you nothing but all the best and you will always find support here………xxoo


JustBree, good for you!!!! You are 100% spot-on – as long as a door remains open for them, they will remain in our heads. GOOD FOR YOU!!!!

At some point, you really will not care how he “feels” about anything – you’ll come to accept that he cannot “feel” the way that other people do. That will be helpful to you, in time.

Brightest healing blessings!

TOWANDA, Justbree!

You took an important step in the healing path! It is incredibly hard to block someone who made themselves the center of your life for so long. You will soon find out how much easier it does make life: you just don’t need to wonder anymore what they’re doing, whether they’re calling you, what crap they want to tell you now…

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