Validity of symptom reports of asylum seekers in a psychiatric hospital: A descriptive study

Douwe van der Heide, Harald Merckelbach

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Abstract

Our study involved three samples (N=85; N=38, and N=27) of asylum seekers in a Dutch psychiatric hospital. We looked at how often they reported severe dissociative episodes (i.e., not recognizing oneself in a mirror; seeing traumatic images in a mirror) and whether these symptoms were related to deviant performance on Symptom Validity Tests (SVTs), notably items from the Structured Inventory of Malingered Symptomatology (SIMS; Widows & Smith, 2005) and a forced-choice task modeled after the Morel Emotional Numbing Test (MENT; Morel, 1998). We also examined whether poor language proficiency and the presence of incentives to exaggerate symptoms might affect scores on SVTs. Dissociative target symptoms were reported by considerable percentages of patients (27-63%). Patients who reported these symptoms had significantly more often deviant scores on SVT items compared with those who did not report such symptoms. With a few exceptions, deviant scores on SVT items were associated with incentives rather than poor language skills. We conclude that the validity of self-reported symptoms in this target group should not be taken for granted and that SVTs may yield important information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40–46
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Volume49
Issue numberPart A
Early online date18 May 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • Transcultural psychiatry
  • Symptom validity tests
  • Refugees, asylum seekers
  • Symptom over-reporting
  • POSTTRAUMATIC-STRESS-DISORDER
  • DISSOCIATIVE EXPERIENCES SCALE
  • STRUCTURED-INVENTORY
  • INADEQUATE EFFORT
  • RESPONSE BIAS
  • RELIABILITY
  • PREVALENCE
  • VALIDATION
  • SIMS

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