Factitious Disorder: Definition, Types, Causes, Symptoms and More

factitious disorder, formerly known as Munchausen syndrome, is a condition in which a person, without a feigned motive, acts as if they had a disease, deliberately faking or exaggerating symptoms, to obtain the role of the patient. People with a factitious disorder can produce symptoms by contaminating urine samples, taking hallucinogens, injecting fecal material to produce abscesses, and similar behavior.

It is generally assumed that no one wants to be ill, it is also assumed that those seeking medical treatment are providing an honest medical history to obtain the most accurate treatment possible and will follow the prescribed treatment to the end with the goal of a full recovery.

This is not the case for those who are diagnosed with a factitious disorder, since as mentioned, patients who invent symptoms to obtain a certain diagnosis that they believe will attract the attention, care and interest of others do not have intention to improve, why? Experts believe that those with factitious disorder simply feel more comfortable in the “sick role,” in fact, it is a diagnosis that is delivered when there is no other reward or gain (eg, financial, legal, etc.).

Factitious Disorder

What are the types of factitious disorder?

They are of two types:

Self-imposed factitious disorder

Includes falsification of psychological or physical signs or symptoms, as described above. An example of a factitious psychological disorder is to mimic the typical behavior of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia . The person may appear confused, make silly claims, and report hallucinations (the experience of detecting things that are not there, for example hearing voices).

Factitious disorder imposed on another person

People with this disorder produce or manufacture symptoms of illness in other people in their care: children, older adults, disabled people, or pets. It occurs more frequently in mothers (although it can occur in fathers) who intentionally harm their children to receive care, the diagnosis is not given to the victim, but to the perpetrator.

What are the symptoms of factitious disorder?

People with factitious disorder can:

  • Lying about or mimicking symptoms.
  • They hurt themselves to cause symptoms.
  • Altering diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample or altering a wound to prevent healing).

Be willing to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to gain the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill.

Most people with this condition do not believe they have a factitious disorder; they may not be fully aware of why they are inducing their own disease. Many people with factitious disorder can also have other mental disorders , particularly personality or identity disorders .

What are the warning signs of factitious disorder?

Possible warning signs of factitious disorder include:

  • Dramatic but inconsistent medical history.
  • Unclear symptoms that are not controllable, become more severe or change once treatment has started.
  • Predictable relapses after improvement in condition.
  • Extensive knowledge of hospitals and / or medical terminology, as well as textbook descriptions of diseases.
  • Presence of many surgical scars.
  • Appearance of new or additional symptoms after negative results.
  • Presence of symptoms only when the patient is alone or is not being observed.
  • Willingness or desire to undergo medical examinations, operations or other procedures.
  • History of seeking treatment in many hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices, possibly even in different cities.
  • Patient reluctance to allow healthcare professionals to meet or speak with family members, friends, and prior healthcare providers.
  • Refusal of psychiatric or psychological evaluation.
  • Predict negative medical outcomes even though there is no evidence for this.
  • Sabotage discharge plans or suddenly become ill as one is about to be discharged from the hospital setting.

What Causes Factitious Disorder?

The exact cause is not known, but researchers believe that biological and psychological factors play a role in the development of this disorder. Some theories suggest that a history of abuse or neglect as a child, or a history of frequent illnesses in oneself or in family members that required hospitalization, may be factors in the development of the disorder.

Most patients with factitious disorder have a history of abuse, trauma, family dysfunction, social isolation, early chronic medical illness, or professional experience in health care (nursing training, health care work, etc.).

Treatments for factitious disorder

Treatment is difficult and there are no standard treatment strategies for this condition and to be successful requires the patient to agree with their diagnosis and actively participate in the treatment, which can be difficult for patients who want to be considered. sick.

Many people abandon treatment once the diagnosis of factitious disorder has been raised as a possibility because they feel defensive or embarrassed.To prevent this from happening, any confrontation should be friendly and supportive in nature and emphasize that the individual is someone who needs help and that their care will continue.


Medications have not been shown to be helpful in treating factitious disorder on its own, although they may be prescribed for symptoms of anxiety or depression if the individual also meets the criteria for anxiety or mood disorder.


As of 2002, knowledge of the comparative effectiveness of different psychotherapeutic approaches is limited by the fact that few people diagnosed with a fictional disorder remain in long-term treatment.

In many cases, however, the factitious disorder improves or resolves if the individual receives appropriate therapy for a comorbid psychiatric disorder. Ganser syndrome usually resolves completely with supportive psychotherapy .

One approach that has proven useful in confronting patients with an examiner’s suspicions is a supportive approach that focuses on the individual’s emotional distress as the source of the illness rather than the anger or righteous indignation of hospital staff. Although most people with this disorder refuse psychiatric treatment when offered, those who accept it seem to benefit more from supportive rather than insight-oriented therapy.

The family therapy r is often beneficial to help family members understand the behavior of the individual and his need for attention.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.