Abstract

In neuropsychological practice, individuals often present with evidence of excessive cognitive complaints or invalid test performances indicative of symptom exaggeration; however, clinicians often struggle with how to diagnose these cases once they have been identified. Difficulties in subsuming these individuals within existing DSM-IV diagnoses such as Malingering, Factitious Disorder, and Conversion Disorder are discussed, including: (a) lack of a diagnostic category that adequately targets the specific features of this relatively common condition and (b) the use of criteria that require the clinician to make judgments about internal states that are difficult to evaluate in an objective manner (e.g., intentional versus unintentional production of exaggerated symptoms). Two diagnostic categories–Cogniform Disorder and Cogniform Condition–are proposed as new subtypes of the Somatoform Disorders to encompass cases of excessive cognitive complaints and inadequate test-taking effort in the absence of sufficient evidence to diagnose Malingering. Of the two new categories, Cogniform Disorder is defined as a more pervasive form in which the individual tends to exhibit the excessive cognitive symptoms in widespread areas of his or her life, thereby suggesting a conversion-like adoption of the sick role manifested primarily as cognitive dysfunction. Guidelines for improving the evidence-based diagnosis of these cases, particularly with regards to criteria related to intentionality, secondary gain, and sick role factors, are also discussed.