Can you feign depression?

Posted on June 27, 2014

SINGAPORE - Someone has allegedly got himself discharged from the army by feigning depression.

Many Singaporeans would have taken the person's Facebook confession with a pinch of salt.

"Not easy to feign depression," said Ang Yong Guan, a retired military psychiatrist who had served in the Singapore Armed Forces for more than 17 years.

To distinguish between the genuine and the feigned, Ang said that it is important to look for consistency in the symptoms of depression.

Symptoms include persistent negative thoughts and emotions, bodily discomfort like insomnia and tightness in the chest, and even suicidal tendencies. Negative thoughts and emotions are mutually reinforcing, causing many patients to lapse into chronic depression, where they become vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.

The patient's verbal account is first compared with feedback from his colleagues, family and friends to verify its authenticity.

But what if a malingerer's entire social circle colludes to weave a flawless story of a loved one trapped in depression?

"Then we will rely on the mental state examination," he said.

One example of the mental state examination involves asking the patient a simple mathematics question.

"Then we will review him again in a week's time. If the week before he could say eight times eight gives 64, but this week he scratches his head and says 63, then that's what we are looking for - inconsistencies," he said.

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Source material from The Independent Singapore