April 23, 2020 | Eul Basa

Psychiatrists Share The Most Obvious Attempts To Fake Insanity That They've Seen

Psychiatrists have the daunting task of getting into a person's mind and understanding what makes them tick. In order to give people the help they need, they must be able to successfully diagnose a person's condition, and that includes knowing how to distinguish between real cases and, well, not so real ones. The following professionals shared the most obvious attempts to fake insanity that they've seen, and their stories will leave you shaking your head from second-hand embarrassment:

#1 All For A Check

I had a mother come in and INSIST that her child had Silver-Russell syndrome. You can go read about it. It's not that easy to fake, as it's a bunch of metabolic conditions mixed with congenital abnormalities. The kid was small, but not that small (around 6th percentile). He didn't weight much (5th percentile). All of this, with a right arm length 2 cm more than the left side, was borderline criteria for Silver-Russell. We did genetic testing, which came back negative, but 30% of cases are negative.

So the deciding factor was one of the "soft" criteria of hypoglycemia. Once she heard about this (she printed out 30-40 articles on the disease), she came back with the kid in a coma. But when the kid was in the hospital, he was never hypoglycemic. He went home and came back in a coma a few weeks later. Again, as soon as he was eating normally at the hospital, he was never hypoglycemic.

She starved her child into comas repeatedly for the diagnosis of Silver-Russell. She was also a "bougon," or a person who lives off welfare and makes a game out of it. By the way, she was in a wheelchair when at the hospital. Once I had enough of her nonsense and walked into the room after only knocking once. She was walking around normally and jumped into the wheelchair as soon as she saw me. I believe it was for money since, in Canada, you get money when your child has a genetic disability... God, if it was legal, I would have slapped some sense into that monster.


#2 Ulterior Motives

Not a psychiatrist, but a secretary for a psych ward at a VA hospital as a college student, who was also trained to be part of the "take-down" team—that is, when a patient gets unruly and non-compliant, we're sent in to safely get them restrained. One day, I came into work expecting it to be a normal day. I immediately heard the code over the comms system for the takedown team to go to Room 3. Room 3 is the intake room and where all new patients are seen. We arrived in the room to assess the situation and there was a mess all over the walls, and a man completely naked.

We managed to get him restrained without too much hassle. The doctor on the team asked him, "Why did you feel the need to create this mess?" his response: "I'm homeless. The government won't take care of me and I want food and a place to stay. The shelters are full and I knew that I could get at least 72 hours of warmth and food by acting crazy."

We gave the man a full two-week treatment stay instead, and had the VA and DAV come in to get him housing. Literally one of the BEST patients I've dealt with while working there from that point forward. He even helped to calm other vets down on the floor before we had to do a takedown. It's absolutely atrocious that these veterans feel the only way they can get the help they need is to do something this extreme. Last I heard the guy was doing much better, DAV helped him get a job doing clean-up at construction sites and an apartment of his own.


#3 Desperate Times

I work EMS and we sometimes do psych transfers. You'd be surprised how much homeless say, "I want to hurt myself," or some other form of that phrase because they know it gets them three days of hot meals, a bed, and a shower. It's sad because I've had a few flat out admit that's why they did it. For them, they'd rather be in a psych ward than on the streets. That's not counting the ones that DO have psych issues.

Homeless Male People Social Poverty City StreetMaxpixel

#4 A System Loophole

I was inpatient a handful of times. I've met a lot of homeless people who even admit they're there just to enjoy the three meals a day and a warm bed. Luckily, in my area, the staff usually help them with finding Section 8 housing and going to the social security office after discharge. I've seen some of them get really lucky and have secured placement in a shelter before they even leave. I've even been to a hospital that had a vocational or occupational help group for those who needed tips on how to find a job.


#5 Google Research

I used to work at the VA as a trauma psychologist. My job had NOTHING to do with whether people got service-connected—that was an entirely different process. That said, a small minority of people thought if they could trick me into diagnosing them with PTSD, they would be rolling in dough. The most blatant version of this was someone who had clearly found the DSM criteria online and tried to parrot it back to me without knowing at all what the symptoms meant.

At one point this person told me they had hypervigilance When I asked them to give me an example, they looked like a deer in the headlights. I want to stress how small a minority of people this was. Most people I worked with 1) really did have PTSD, 2) were extremely distressed by it and had it affecting their lives immensely, and 3) wouldn't actually file for service connection because they didn't think they deserved it.

I think veterans get a lot of flack for filing spurious claims for service connection, but on my side, it was a very very small minority who were trying to "pull one over" on people. Most of these men and women just wanted to feel better.


#6 Just Faking It

I did a psych placement as a student and was in a discharge meeting with this homeless guy. He was brought into the hospital because police had been called as he was threatening to jump off a bridge. He claimed depression and negative thoughts but that was found out not to be. He said he was hearing voices, which was also not true. The dude was just desperate to have shelter and food. Sad case.


#7 The Other Side

I  was homeless for eight months a number of years ago. Many people on the street know that under Canadian law a person must be sent to a psych ward for assessment if they walk into a hospital and say they are either going to harm themselves or others. It's an easy way for a homeless person to find a bed on a cold winter night. I never did it myself but it can be very, very cold on the streets some times.


#8 We Need To Do Better

You see way too many of those in the psych hospitals. We had plenty of clients who would take meds and live semi-normal lives on the street or with family members, but then throw them away the minute the weather turned cold. Many knew long holds would only happen in extreme cases, so they would threaten to end someone or really hurt themselves. We had to watch them with meds when they got in too, as many would cheek to stay in longer. We need to do better by our mentally ill.


#9 Clinically Insane

Sorry for the tangent, but has anyone else heard someone say: "My friend was diagnosed as clinically insane?" I used to hear it all the time in high school; it was trendy. I remember talking to a guy in my year about how I thought I might have bipolar and he was like, "Don't joke about that stuff. I'm literally clinically insane. Sometimes I go stand in the square in the middle of the city and just scream at the sky."


#10 Makes No Sense

It's hard to tell if someone is being open about mental illness for the sake of raising awareness, lack of shame, or because they think it's a cool personality quirk. People think depression makes them seem edgy and deep. I also saw a dude hitting on a girl by talking about his depression. I've talked to artists who brag about being tortured artistic souls with depression, which is odd, because depression causes a lack of motivation and inspiration, making it incompatible with art. An artist bragging about depression is like a surgeon bragging about having Parkinson's disease.


#11 Revolving Door

Not a psychiatrist, but I am a psychiatric nurse. We used to have so many malingering inpatients. Homeless. They'd come in claiming to be a threat to themselves. They would not get out of bed for days except meals. No participation. They denied the ideation for days. The doctor then tries to kick them out. All of a sudden, they start screaming and say their hearing voices. Rinse, then repeat x 100. We literally had people with 50+ inpatient visits.


#12 A Fascinating Case

He was sent in for a malingering exam after being held at the state psychiatric hospital. He was ruled to be not competent to stand trial. Someone at the hospital had already given him a malingering exam, which they were not supposed to do. So when he got to my instructor, he knew exactly what to do to play off being “crazy.” Though, much to his dismay, the exam asks about false symptoms... so he got caught early on. He was looking under his chair and claiming to see things. Quite the fascinating story.


#13 Just Trolling?

Not a psychiatrist but Trisha Paytas' attempt to fake disassociative identity disorder should definitely be up there. Trisha Paytas clearly has something going on, but I don’t think it’s any of the things she’s claiming. I’m not just saying that flippantly either. Being uncomfortable with not being the center of attention at all times should be enough for a GP or psychologist to be asking more questions.

LT Col Owen Johnson plastic surgeonHealth

#14 Split Personalities

Psych nurse-back in the '90s here. Multiple personality disorder was all the rage (and not true). I would regularly treat people, some of whom claimed 100+ personalities. If you were convincing enough, you could find your way onto an all-expense-paid vacay to be on Springer or Sally Jesse or Maurey or any of the other dozen trashy day time talk shows from that time.


#15 Easy Triggers

It is very reasonable that in the presence of a trigger a person can revert to regressive coping mechanisms. We had heard a door slam that sounded like a gunshot. He curled up as a young child would. Unfortunately, DID was perverted into people believing this type of reaction was a separate personality with different names, voices temperaments, etc. It's really insulting to those with genuine DID.


#16 You Think You're Clever

I have a friend that works for the county court system and they see people come in all the time for the paperwork on their arrest for resisting arrest. They hope the incident report will get them diagnosed with PTSD so they can get a medical prescription for a substance since it is legal in the state. They always can tell who got in the altercation for that reason because they are in there the next day begging not to have to wait for the four to six weeks it takes to actually get the report printed and they will tell them they need it for diagnosis in hopes of sympathy and faster turn-around time.

#17 Detection Training

We had a course on my psychology bachelors on how to detect faking mental health patients and some of the ways to detect it were so good that even professionals that specialize on a specific disorder couldn't take it well enough. Of course, the psychiatrist or psychologist must be trained in those methods. Still, it's hard to really fake insanity in the midst of these professionals.


#18 Different Attempts

Back in Korea, there was a guy in my MASH unit who was always trying to get sent home with a Section 8. He was a draftee, but most of us were and no one went to the lengths he did. Mostly, he would just crossdress, but he would try other things too, like pretending to be a Cleopatra, or a traveling salesman, or just a normal civilian. Our CO never bought it. I guess he kept him around for company morale or something. Eventually, he kind of gave up after he got promoted to Company Clerk but he still had all those dresses up until the end of the war.


#19 Blind To The Truth

The amount of people trying to fake blindness for benefits is just unbelievably way too high. And I, unfortunately, got the tail end of that frustration. I've been laughed at, mocked, and asked whether I wanted to see my children grow up. My husband left his job and it was one of the worse Christmases ever. You try to explain to a four-year-old why Father Christmas can't come this year even though yes, he has been perfect and Santa does love him so. The guilt that rebounded onto me from that and the trauma of losing my sight meant by that April, I was on a watch list and under a crisis team. That was a year ago now.


#20 Not Like The Movies

Not a psychiatrist, but I am genuinely insane (when unmedicated). I think where people go wrong faking madness is how BIG they go with it. I have bipolar and during mania, I come across basically the same as always. A bit more energy, much more interest in escapism, and more awake too. I think the government has my flat bugged and someone invisible keeps breathing into my ear, but other than that, we good, let’s do shots. "Insanity" rarely looks like it does in movies.


#21 Taking Notes From Split

I had a lady who loved the attention. She thought she was crazy and had dissociative identity disorder (think the movie Split). Actually, now that I think about it, I saw her around the time the movie came out. She claimed to have many different personalities. In one of them, she regresses into a 10-year-old boy named Billy.

Anyway, this lady started screaming and throwing herself on the floor. Nurses were trying to control her without giving too much attention and feeding into it. She then saw the medical student and the patient told him, “TELL DR. MACARONI AND SNEEZE THAT BILLY IS OUT NOW!” She said this incredibly clear and concise; not in a whining 10-year-old tone that she was switching in and out of.


#22 A Call For Attention

Not a psychiatrist but I had a friend who got told he “laughs like joker” and started laughing in the stupidest most annoying way during class. Some background: we were fighting and not on good terms, but he sat next to me so I would see him with his head down and a hood on, fake laughing like a maniac. This is a call for attention more than anything.


#23 Swish, Swish

I worked as an on-call crisis worker in a community hospital responding mostly to ER calls. A chronic patient with a borderline personality disorder diagnosis presented with behavior that did not warrant an inpatient hospitalization, despite wanting it. When I was getting his discharge instructions together, he left the exam room he was in and found a cleaning cart. He sipped some cleaning solution. I walked into the room and I could smell it, so I asked what the smell was and he very nonchalantly pointed to the cart. HE said he didn’t know what it was, he just drank something off the cart. I think he swished and spit it out, but he got his wish.


#24 Forever Stigmatized

I also have bipolar 2 and I am constantly plagued with the thought that I could be faking or manipulating others. When I was a teenager, I was admitted to an inpatient facility and my mom told all the doctors and nurses I was faking for attention and that I'm just manipulative. It's stuck with me ever since. I don't think the stigma will ever go away, either.


#25 Big Regrets

I once read about prisoners faking insanity to get better care. One prisoner said that he did it because he heard that he wouldn’t have to sit in a cell anymore. He regretted it. It was not like he had heard. He said that he had tried to explain that he faked it, but that no one would listen. The guard explained that, because he faked madness, he was in fact mad. I don’t remember where I read it since it was a couple of years back. It could also be just a thought experiment and not a real event.


#26 That's Gross

I was placed on a psychiatric hold. The first night, there was a woman in my room who was there for some court-related evaluation. She got up in the middle of the night and went all over the floor. I overheard her telling another patient there was no way she was going back to jail again. It was freaking disgusting.


#27 It Goes Two Ways

A psychiatric resident here. A lot of patients threaten with harming themselves just to get admitted or to get more pills. There's also the other way around. Sometimes patients (usually admitted with a manic or psychotic episode) can tell you crazy stories that seem to be part of the illness, but they turn out to be (partially) true.


#28 No Remorse

I had a patient show up at the end of each month when they would waste the benefits they would receive. They would go to the main ER and claim they were a threat to themselves and be placed with us on the inpatient unit. They would come in and say: "Three hots and a cot." I had one patient that was a major user. Probably had some brain cells fried but 90% there in the head. One day, he decided to pursue another patient who was fertile... We asked why he did and he said he "always wanted to have kids."


#29 Hard To Grasp

I believe this question is circular in nature, since a stable, independently functional human being, being emotionally healthy, would have no motivation that I am aware of, to convince people that they are anything but. What incentive would such a person have to limit their own options for an independent living situation of their own choosing? I can think of no upside to having other people make decisions for you throughout life.


#30 "Watch This"

One time, when I was being admitted to a psych ward in the eighth grade, there was an older man that obviously had mental issues as he literally lit himself on fire, which is why he was there. He looked at me and said, "Watch this." The man started full-on screaming and faking a seizure, making his spit bubble and come out of his mouth. The cops and fire department were there in an instant and he was taken to the hospital. I've heard that patients do that because they can walk out of the hospital and go back to normal.


#31 Nice Try, Soldier

Not a psychiatrist but I think this fits. A guy I served with tried to get out of conscription by showing up on enrollment day dressed in a purple kilt and marching around with a plunger as a prop rifle. He even had a plunger tattooed on his arm. He was told to lose the kilt, but he kept the plunger for some weeks before he gave up. He turned out to be quite a good soldier.


#32 Stepmother Antics

Therapist here. But this is going on a personal level and one of the few reasons I got in this field. My stepmother faked having DID after watching how people act and react around them. She's got a narcissistic style with zero empathy and loves to play any card to give her the right spotlight. But that's only one of the few I am willing to talk about.


#33 All For The Meds

Not a psychiatrist, but when I was in the waiting room waiting to get called back to have my appointment, I heard screaming. The girl who was in the room ran out and in a frenzy saying, "What do you mean I can't be prescribed Xanax since I don't have anxiety?" She then started staring at things and claiming everything made her feel "uneasy." She looked like she was 10... I mean everyone gets anxiety sometimes but not everyone needs meds for it.


#34 Real Triggers

There are all these edgy jerks who make a mockery of people with depression and other problems. They make it a joke. It is not a joke. People have something bother them and say they’re TRIGGERED. And now people who actually do have triggers that just hit you hard get dismissed, whether it’s PTSD or other reasons.


#35 Respect Above All

I’ve been an in-patient in psych wards a few times. The first time, I was sent home because I was faking it. The doctor (an old white man) told me that I was just a regular teen having fun. I had the return the next day and be assessed by a different psychiatrist who ended up making me stay in the hospital for months. The first doctor I saw didn’t get any punishment. I could’ve died. Obviously, this is an isolated incident, but even if you doubt the person is lying please still treat them with respect.


#36 Nothing But Plain Interest

They thought I was pretending that I had autistic traits because I knew what autistic traits were, so it would be easy for me to fake it. As if I knew exactly how to pretend to have mental health issues just because I know the symptoms... The worst part is that I didn't know much about these problems; I learned more about the rarest ones. I didn't even know what a personality disorder was before I went to the hospital.


#37 The Possessed Woman

A friend of mine went on a church trip to Haiti to help the locals and such. There was a woman there who claimed was possessed. She's been seen by doctors, but none could offer her any help. Well, my friend met with her and she seemed chill until the start worship that night. She proceeded to get up and make a big scene. The funny part was she was at the dinner they had later that night, just chilling and eating some goat leg as if nothing had happened. Not sure if she was actually insane, though.


#38 Bad Joke

College kids. I could tell right off the bat they’re faking ADD or ADHD. They want Ritalin or Adderall, like really bad. Some even stupidly mention these prescriptions before diagnosis. But as a person with no moral compass, I prescribe them no matter what, keep big pharma rolling baby!!! I'm just kidding, I'm not irresponsible like that. Bad joke.


#39 It Works Wonders

It sucks being ADD. I was diagnosed back in the '80s in elementary school when it was new and not really heard of. After high school, I stopped taking the meds. But, after having my second and last child, I went to the doctor and was like I cannot do this anymore. I explained everything and they started me on meds. It works wonders! I'm able to focus and actually be productive.

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#40 Do I Look Sane?

One time, this guy in my psychiatric ward stood up real tall and said: “Do I look like a sane man?” A few days later, he was punching through windows and stuff too to seem unstable and whatnot. I eventually had to lobotomize him instead of just sending him back to the working farm. He was probably just pretending to be insane to get out of it. He was really making it difficult to control the other patients.


#41 Just A Fan

Some guy came in with makeup on. He talked about how his wife was depressed, so he wanted to make her smile. He said that he dyed his hair and started acting crazy. He then went on about how his wife couldn’t even stand to look at him anymore. That’s when I knew he was just a huge fan of The Dark Knight. Sometimes, it really is just someone faking it.


#42 A Moronic Status Symbol

I'm not a psychologist, but I've seen many people fake insanity because to them, it's some sort of moronic status symbol. The people that truly struggle with mental health, try their hardest to live normal lives and appear normal. The only time they let the mask slip is when they're caught off guard or when they genuinely want help.


#43 A Desperate Plea

Please don't fake it. Please don't do it. There are alternatives. Talk to your family, friends, doctors, police. It isn't worth it. I know. I had two friends over the years do it and it wasn't because of any substance abuse or disease. They not only did themselves in, but they also affected dozens around them, emotionally and psychologically. Don't do it. Don't let anyone do it. Life is worth living even when it sucks because it doesn't always suck.


#44 Medical Biases

It always amazed me how blasé psychiatrists were so biased towards a particular illness. Schizophrenia diagnoses were very popular in the 1970s and '80s. Bipolar and borderline personality disorders seem to be popular now in the psychiatric community. It never ceases to amaze me how they can glean so much information from patients that they do not deign to mix with.


#45 Unofficial Pharmacist

My friend who worked in the psychiatric ward at a hospital told me that one day, he was called in to deal with someone who was, “mentally unfit to be with others.” He comes in and finds a 50-year-old woman running naked through the hallways with security guards chasing her. He tried calming her down but she started yelling at him saying, “I wanted my meds, but they wouldn’t give 'em." Her mental file said she was mentally competent. Turns out, her meds, (the ones she had been raving about) she hadn’t been taking, but she was selling them. $25 per pill, I believe. And this act was her way to get more.  Just your average day I guess.


#46 On The Spot

At his trial, Kenneth Bianchi pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that another personality, one "Steve Walker," had committed the crimes. He convinced a few expert psychiatrists that he indeed suffered from multiple personality disorder, but investigators brought in their own psychiatrists, mainly Martin Orne. When Orne mentioned to Bianchi that in genuine cases of the disorder, there are usually three or more personalities, Bianchi promptly created another alias, "Billy."


#47 Jefferson Parish

My grandfather used to always say: "If you're hungry and have nowhere to go, just yell at a cop." This was in Louisiana, around New Orleans, and across the lake. There was also a single exception: NEVER do this in Jefferson Parish. For anyone wondering about Jefferson Parish, it's a (scary but accurate) joke about the police force being ruthless. Basically, you get punished for mouthing off, and god forbid you don't follow every single instruction given perfectly and immediately...


#48 An Unfair Situation

A friend was recently ended by a driver under the influence (going the wrong way on I-80).  She is telling police that she "wasn't driving the truck" when she was clearly the only person in the vehicle. Is this woman going to plead insanity and try to get out of her incredibly narcissistic actions? It really ticks me off. What's also terrible is that this person was released on $50,000 bail. What judge would trust this person?


#49 "Paying It Forward"

When I was doing my psych rotation in nursing school I had to do it at a state psychiatric hospital. We had to do interviews with the residents. There was one young woman who had multiple diagnoses who would elope every weekend and come back on Monday. She was positive for infectious disease and had given it unknowingly. She would go out for the weekend, be as promiscuous as she possibly could be, then come back on Monday. She said she was paying it forward.


#50 You Don't Believe Me

I was having a really hard time for a while when I was 19. I'd have constant panic attacks and I would upset myself so much I would throw up. I went to the doctor because a therapist's appointment was three months out. They straight up said, "I don't prescribe Xanax." I got really irritated because he disregarded me needing help acting like I was there to get high. I told him I wake up and freak out I want something I can take in the morning so I can just feel normal again. I don't want to take something after I'm already feeling this way.




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