Munchausen syndrome is a factitious disorder, meaning it's made up or self-inflicted. A person with Munchausen syndrome pretends to be sick, or makes himself sick on purpose. People act this way to fulfill attention and sympathy needs, not for concrete benefits, like time off from work or financial gain. Munchausen patients make up illnesses, fabricate phony medical histories and create long lists of fake "symptoms." They may even make themselves sick by taking medications that ultimately mimic disease, like blood thinners, and by cutting, burning, or injuring themselves. Munchausen patients are so desperate to come off as sick that they'll even tamper with lab tests and equipment. Their behaviors mean unnecessary loss of organs to surgery, severe injury and even death. Unfortunately, people with Munchausen syndrome are so adept at deception; it can be hard to diagnose them. Some peculiar symptoms to look for include: eagerness to undergo frequent testing or risky procedures, very vague or inconsistent symptoms, and frequent hospitalizations, often at many different institutions. People with Munchausen syndrome may tell dramatic stories about medical history, yet appear to have few supportive visitors at the hospital. They may appear evasive when doctors ask to speak to their loved ones. If a doctor notices these things and does diagnose Munchausen syndrome, it can be difficult to treat. That's because the best treatment is talk therapy, but most patients won't admit they have an issue. Those who do get treatment often do so at the urging of family and friends. If you're concerned a loved one is faking illness, consult her about the issue. If gentle prodding doesn't help, your next step is to speak with her doctor.
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Last Updated:December 20, 2012