The Cry for Help in Psychological Injury and Law: Concepts and Review

  • Gerald YoungEmail author


The cry for help is one of the explanations of results indicating negative impression management on symptom validity tests (SVTs) and respondent validity scales of personality and related inventories used in the area of psychological/psychiatric injury and law. One common interpretation of scale/test findings like these is that respondents are exaggerating, and their symptoms are due to feigning or even malingering. However, research shows that patients with scale/test results on these measures and inventories that indicate symptom over-reporting might be expressing genuine extreme psychopathology or emotional distress. A related possibility is that the respondents are catastrophizing, thinking the worst, desperate and pleading for understanding and help. That is, they might be “crying out for help.” The cry for help motivation in the context of psychiatric forensic disability and related psychiatric/psychological evaluations is poorly defined in the literature, leading to contradictory research results and interpretations. Also, certain conditions and disorders that are relevant to forensic disability evaluations and related contexts might, in and of themselves, include a cry for help, complicating the forensic conclusion (e.g., dissociation, somatic symptom disorder). The present paper addresses definitional issues related to the cry for help, including its conscious/unconscious status, reviews the literature on it, suggests ways of measuring it (and the prevalence of malingering), indicates the ethical scope of when it should be used, and offers research strategies to improve the reliability and validity of its use in the forensic disability and related evaluation context.


Cry for help Malingering scale Respondent validity scales Dissociation And ethics 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Glendon CollegeYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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