Is that alleged psych injured worker faking it?


The assessment of  a worker’s psych injury workcover claim involves much more than a diagnosis it involves verifying whether the injured worker is not exaggerating or faking it! In this article, a research psychologist explains how an injured worker’s credibility and functionality are measured.

Again it astounds us how much research goes into the development of psych tests to make sure a stress or psych injured worker is for real!

Is that alleged psych injured worker faking it?

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, a professor at Charles Sturt University School of Psychology, says that employers (and others such as workcover insurers) are often very skeptical about psychological injury claims, often suspecting that the worker is exaggerating or malingering, rather than experiencing a genuine stress or psychological injury.

According to Goodman-Delahunty psychological assessors generally seek to ascertain whether any exaggeration is beyond what is expected or normal.

A psychological (or psychiatric) assessor will determine an injured worker’s credibility in several ways, often including interviews with the injured worker’s friends, family and colleagues, looking for inconsistencies and corroboration of accounts.

Psychometric tests can also be used to assess an injured worker’s credibility as they have built-in scales to assess the accuracy of the injured worker’s responses.

Apparently if an (alleged) injured worker produces scores that are outside of those norms, the psych assessor can deduce that this person is  potentially exaggerating their symptoms.

Interesting there is something called “faking good” and “faking bad”, meaning that at times injured workers want to appear better than they really are, and conversely, some are motivated to well… exaggerate.

According to this researcher: “It’s actually very normal in an assessment in a workcover claim situation to engage in some exaggerating.” (huh?)
Goodman-Delahunty developed a 5-stage model for psychological injury assessments and states it is important when assessing these claims to understand how the alleged injury has affected the injured worker’s functioning.

This (effect) can be measured using multiple sources of information, including medical and mental health records, workplace records, and third-party interviews (with colleagues, friends and family) to identify any changes in the injured worker over the relevant time period.

There are, however, problems in “looking backwards”, Goodman-Delahunty says.

“One of the difficulties is accuracy of people’s memories and accessing how [a person] was feeling at periods several months or years back,” she states

“Sometimes, if someone has had a very traumatic experience there can also be memory disruptions.”

There are also “he-said, she-said challenges”.

According to the researcher, psych injury claims create difficulties for assessors because causal factors such as workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination are rarely clear-cut.

“They’re difficult not only for psychologists but for lawyers and courts because in those cases, the injuries are… invisible and intangible… and the background is often one in which there are typical he-said-she-said disputes over what transpired”

They also tend to involve more than one incident, with a variety of participants, witnesses and behaviours.

“That makes it problematic or difficult in terms of assessing the liability and then, naturally, the causation, because in conjunction with a cause of injury that might take place over multiple incidents… the injured worker has other things going on in their life at the same time, which are all potential sources of stress or trauma.”

However, Goodman-Delahunty urges employers to be aware that the consequences of bullying, harassment and discrimination can extend beyond psychological injury symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fear and hostility, and a wide range of symptoms such as sleep disturbance, weight gain/loss, increase alcohol intake, even teeth grinding etc.


[Source based on various research abstracts]


3 Responses to “Is that alleged psych injured worker faking it?”

  1. I begged to return to work & wanted to go back asap, knowing how I manage trauma, it was best to keep me busy & put me back to work after a serious threat/break in my home & ongoing stalking/intimidation. The insurer refused, the workplace refused. I was sent for psych test after psych test. All the while I was off work, waiting for Workcover approval.
    The research underpinning the immediate aftermath of a serious psychological trauma outlines contributing factors which can & do exacerbate the injury as well as delaying recovery.
    It is normal for a person to be traumatised after a serious threat to life/injury etc. Whether this develops into full PTSD, depression & anxiety will be impacted by the follow up after the event.
    What seems to be ignored in this research & the insurers handling of these cases, is that the very system designed to prevent workers from injury is creating the very psychological injuries we end up with.
    I had no income for quite some time, I had no home as it had been completely trashed, I was being stalked by serious criminal offenders, I had no protection & as a single parent with two children who were absolutely terrified, I was given no emotional support or financial support which added to the already stressful situation.
    I didn’t sleep for weeks, yet I was expected to drive myself to & from court, to & from appointments & go & clean up my house, tipping most of my well earned belongings into a skip bin.
    When my senior management went on leave for a week, the acting manager decided to reverse all the decisions & on 3pm as I picked up my children from school, informed me the Dept would no longer support my Workcover claim, which by the way, they submitted, I had no say in the matter.
    I then had several days of severe anxiety & upset not knowing where we would live, how we would survive & then had the ongoing investigation & threats to deal with, I didn’t know if I was going to be alive from one day to the next.
    I hold my office & the insurer directly responsible & negligent for the escalation in symptoms & by failing to adequately & appropriately support me in the immediate aftermath of the events, directly influenced the psychological injury & outcomes.
    I had ongoing break ins/attempted break ins, my car was tampered with, my dog baited & all the while I never once, not once had a visit from anyone from my office or Department & my team was instructed to stay out of it & give no emotional support.
    This fear of litigation leads to negligence, it is immoral & disgusting to leave workers who give their lives & give up time with their families doing jobs no one would want to in their right mind & then dump them like a hot brick the moment things go wrong (despite the fact the Dept authorised all the actions taken leading to the events).
    Recognition of psychological trauma needs an overhaul, handling of psych trauma post events needs an overhaul. We could easily reduce claims & ongoing care by showing more compassion, understanding & quickly processing claims as timely as possible.
    I had children to support, I was driving on no sleep for weeks & I ended up in a 4 car pile up!!! I couldn’t eat, I sat up every night watching over my children with the door barricaded.
    I dare anyone from my office, my family, my friends, the insurer to live through what we have gone through & see how they cope.
    What did the insurer claim?
    They said because I had lost my son to cancer some years prior then I was predisposed to trauma & stress.
    What a crock of crap. Because I lost my son to cancer I was more resilient & able to work in the environment because I had a high level of emotional resilience.
    They don’t even like me discussing details of my work, let alone want to know what went on to lead to this, how could they possibly understand what it is liked to be stalked like an animal 24/7 & to have to live out of a suitcase, we have no home & keep moving until my Workcover stuff is settled so we can then afford to get on with our lives & then build a fortress to hide in?
    Absolute disgrace, this system is a disgrace & inhumane.

  2. Psych injuries are really complex.
    The “faking good” and “faking bad” this a reality. I know I kept trying to put up a brave face and appear better than I really was. The downside of “faking good” is that corrupt IMEs will use it to state that “there is nothing wrong” and it must be “malingering”.

    Psychometric testing is a useful tool if it it used ethically. One again, these tests should also involve face to face interviewing with the injured worker, as well as their immediate family, to ascertain how the patient was before the incident(s) and how life has changed since the incident. As with most things involving WorkCover, everything can be manipulated and skewed to place the injured worker in the worst possible light!

    Here is an example. I was suffering with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder following my workplace injury and 3 years of WorkCover abuse (yeah, I was pretty fucked up at the time), this is part of the Psychometric testing:

    “With regard to diagnostic issues, Mr FU_CGU showed features of both a severe neurotic disorder and psychotic process, (but did not present as psychotic). He is likely to have a schizoid adjustment and will probably be diagnosed as having an Axis II personality disorder of a schizoid or schizotypal form.”

    Being under unrelenting PI surveillance, in my humble opinion, could lead one to have some neurotic or psychotic feelings (and this did show up in the Psychometric testing)- but, the old chestnut “personality disorder” gets trotted out yet again!

    All treatment and research, both physical and psychological, works well in the hands of ethical doctors. Corrupt and biased insurance doctors can always tarnish a good report with negative spin.

  3. The whole Workcover system was put in place in order to assist injured workers but now I see that employers are given “recommendations” while injured workers are labelled as malingers and fakers!

    Xchangingvictim June 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm