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For decades, if not centuries, people with depression were dismissed as not having a serious problem when, in fact, depression is serious indeed. So…

We want to be cautious when we talk about faking depression.

But if you’re wondering how to tell if someone is faking depression, then it’s probably because you have some concerns about someone in your life. Those concerns are certainly valid.

Faking Depression

Is It Possible to Fake Depression?

Depression is a common condition that ranges in severity. Moreover, there are many different types of depression. Since so many people deal with it, and there is a wealth of information about the condition, it’s certainly possible to understand the illness well enough to fake it.

Why People Fake Depression

Depression is a terrible mental health condition. Living with depression is an awful experience. So why would anyone fake depression?

Faking DepressionThere are three key reasons why people might fake depression:

  1. In order to gain a reward of some type (for example, disability insurance payments)
  2. With the hopes of avoiding a negative consequence (for example, a jail sentence)
  3. As a symptom of another mental health disorder

Faking depression to avoid legal responsibilities or gain benefits is a serious offense that can be classified as fraud or deceit, potentially resulting in legal consequences including jail time. In a correctional environment, inmates often undergo psychological evaluations, and if it is discovered that an individual is faking depression, this could exacerbate their legal and social difficulties.

In the context of avoiding negative consequences, such as a jail sentence, it’s important to consider the implications of an inmate’s release date. Knowing when an inmate will be released is vital for ensuring that they receive appropriate mental health evaluations and treatment. This not only aids in their rehabilitation but also helps in the proper allocation of resources and in maintaining the integrity of legal and correctional processes.

In other words, many people who fake depression, do so because they want something: either a benefit or to avoid a negative situation. But there are also people with legitimate mental health issues who fake depression.

Related Mental Health Conditions

There are a few mental health issues that can look a lot like faking depression. And some in which faking depression is a symptom. For example:

  • Munchausen Syndrome, known better today as Factitious Disorder, in which a person regularly complains of symptoms they don’t have. Alternatively, they may induce such symptoms in themselves.
  • Somatic Symptom Disorder, in which the person reacts strongly to perceived or real issues.
  • Anti-social Personality Disorder, in which the individual might fake depression, often to get out of consequences for criminal behavior.

Sometimes people who fake depression do so because they have underlying needs that they aren’t sure how to get addressed any other way. They may be insecure or jealous, for example. This leads to attention-seeking in the form of depression. While it’s not the best way to get attention, it is still a cry for help of some kind.

The Main Symptoms of Depression

Therefore, if you’re wondering how to tell if someone is faking depression, it’s helpful to know the main symptoms of depression to look for.

Symptoms of Depression

There are two main things to look for:

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness
  2. Loss of interest in people and activities

But there are a host of other symptoms as well:

  • Changes in eating
  • Difficulty focusing/concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt and/or shame, often without any reason
  • Hopelessness
  • Hypersomnia and/or insomnia
  • Indecision
  • Irritability
  • Pessimism
  • Physical pain including headaches and stomach issues
  • Talking about death and/or suicide
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Worthlessness

When these things occur more often than not, and when they begin to interfere with daily function (relationships, work, school, etc.) then depression is likely.

If someone is only “depressed” about certain things but then gets easily happy again, it might be a sign of faking depression.

Hiding Depression is Normal

It’s important to recognize that hiding depression is a normal part of the condition. 

People with depression don’t go around looking miserable at all hours of the day. In fact, people with high-functioning depression may rarely exhibit external depression symptoms.

Therefore, you shouldn’t assume that someone is faking depression just because they don’t “look depressed.”

Figuring out how to tell if a person is faking depression isn’t easy. But if someone creates a lot of drama, draws attention to their depression symptoms, and seems to get rewards from these actions, then they might be faking depression.

Faking DepressionShould I Confront Someone About Faking Depression?

People who fake depression are often accused of malingering. This has come to have a terrible connotation because in the history of mental health, people were accused of malingering when they had real mental health issues. This can lead to stigma that we don’t want to perpetuate.

Therefore, you might want to think carefully about how to approach someone you believe is faking depression. You can certainly approach them, but do so with kindness and an open mind. Be willing to listen and hear what’s going on for them.

First, think of it this way: they probably have some kind of problem, right? The average person doesn’t lie about having a mental illness just to get a reward or avoid a consequence. They may or may not have depression – but it seems like they have something going on. So, approach them with empathy for whatever might be the underlying issue.

And remember, whether or not they have depression, it’s important that you set your own boundaries as needed. Practice self-care. It’s not your responsibility to solve this person’s issue – whether it’s clinical depression or not. Let a mental health professional do that work.

Depression is a serious illness. And if you’re wondering about how to tell if someone is faking depression, then you’re dealing with something that’s very challenging. Don’t try to deal with this all on your own.

Our therapists can help provide diagnosis and treatment for the person you’re concerned about. And they can also help you work through the challenges you face in the situation. Contact us today for a consultation.


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