This is a psychological disorder and behavioural condition in which an individual pretends to be or induces symptoms of illness in him. It is sometimes called Factitious disorder. Factitious disorders are either made up or self-inflicted. They can be psychological or physical.
The exact cause of this disorder is unknown but researchers are still looking at the role of psychological and biological factors in its development. However, individuals with this disorder may have experienced a severe illness when they were young or may have been emotionally or physically abused. Adults aged 20-40 years are more likely to develop Munchausen's syndrome.
The symptoms of Munchausen's syndrome include:
• Problems with identity and self-esteem
• Presence of multiple surgical scars
• Eagerness to have medical tests, operations or other procedures
• Dramatic but inconsistent medical history
• Vast knowledge of hospitals as well as textbook descriptions of illnesses
• Appearance of new or additional symptoms following negative test results
• Symptoms being present only when the patient is with others or being observed
• A history of seeking treatment at numerous clinics, hospitals and possibly even in different cities
• Unwilling to allow doctors meet with or talk to family, friends or prior doctors
The risk factors of Munchausen's syndrome include:
• A history of mental problems such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
• Relationship problems
• Having difficulty differentiating reality from fantasy
• Having a family member with a serious illness
• Chronic illnesses during childhood
• Self esteem or identity problems
• Personality disorders
• Childhood trauma such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse
If you think a loved one may be faking his or her health problems, offer support and help in finding treatment!