Munchausen Syndrome || The Mental Disorders We Don’t Talk About

In this instalment of the series, we look into a unique mental disorder involving people believing or faking any sort of disease or disorder; mainly for attention seeking purposes. This ones a tough one, it’s very difficult to diagnose, and sometimes to even notice. This is mainly due to the fact that we don’t like discussing the possibility that someone could fake a disease the same way people fake sick to stay home from school or work. It’s highly unlikely that you may know someone that is a sufferer, as it’s considered a rare disorder with no real universal statistics or numbers, due to the dishonesty within the disorder. What is known however is that if affects more men than women, and mostly becomes noticeable in someone’s middle to late 20s, and can appear during childhood.

What causes this condition?

The causes aren’t quite known, however there have been links found between personality disorders and/or abuse or neglect.

How to spot a sufferer of Munchausen Syndrome

  • Mostly display physical symptoms i.e chest pain, stomach complaints etc
  • Exaggeration of mild symptoms or even of no actual symptoms
  • They may also lie about symptoms like s headache that cannot be disproved
  • Often alter test results by changing behaviour
  • Inconsistent medical history
  • Array of testing that doesn’t link with one another
  • Often predictable relapses if they appear to be improving
  • Symptoms appear stronger in the person in front or around certain people, particularly being observed
  • Extensive knowledge on medical conditions, diseases and testing (this isn’t always a sign for obvious reasons..)
  • Additional symptoms appear when tests come back as negative
  • Overly eager to do testing and/or surgery
  • Problems with identity, self esteem and anxiety.
  • Usually display other attention seeking behaviour i.e bullying and playing victim, starting arguments, unhealthy rate of friend turnover etc

The hard aspect of diagnosing

Most people with the disorder don’t get diagnosed because of the dishonesty they portray. However, a doctor may refer a patient to a psychologist or counsellor if they believe the patient may be faking other conditions after all testing comes back negative. A doctor may also diagnose by observing the patient behaviour and attitude during appointments.

There isn’t a whole lot known about this disorder, but what is known is the stress on the healthcare system paying for unneeded testing and appointments with this kind of person/patient.

Treatment options

There’s no real treatment options available apart from therapy. This is to try and find an underlying issue for why this might be happening, or if they’re being influenced by someone else.

Stay tuned for more!


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