Factitious disorder is a complex mental illness in which a person deceives people by pretending to be unwell, getting sick deliberately, or injuring themselves. Members of the family or caretakers can also cause factitious disorder by fraudulently portraying others, like children, as injured, ill, or disabled.
Features of the factitious condition can range from moderate (some exaggeration of complaints) to severe, formerly called Munchausen syndrome (full exaggeration of symptomatology). To persuade others that medical treatment, like high-risk surgery, is required, the person may fabricate symptoms or even interfere with medical tests. Devising medical difficulties for the purpose of getting out of a job or trying to win a lawsuit is not the same as factitious disorder.
You might be wondering how Munchausen syndrome differs from a factitious disorder if you’ve heard the word. The simple answer is that Munchausen syndrome is a type of factitious condition, albeit many healthcare practitioners confuse the two categories.
Munchausen syndrome is an appropriate medical term for a factitious condition that includes the following:
- Symptoms that are mostly physical
- A series of feigned illnesses and injuries
This ancient name derives from German Cavalry commander Karl Frederick Hieronymus, Frieherr Von Munchausen, who spun strange tales about his adventures.
It’s difficult to diagnose and manage factitious disorders. However, medical and mental health assistance is essential for averting major injuries and even death from self-harm, which is a common adverse outcome of this disorder.
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