Munchausen syndrome is a type of factitious disorder, or mental illness, in which a person repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental disorder when, in truth, they have caused the symptoms. People with factitious disorders act this way because of an inner need to be seen as ill or injured, not to achieve a concrete benefit, such as financial gain. They are even willing to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to get the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill. Munchausen syndrome is a mental illness associated with severe emotional difficulties.
Munchausen syndrome -- named for Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German officer who was known for embellishing the stories of his life and experiences -- is the most severe type of factitious disorder. Most symptoms in people with Munchausen syndrome are related to physical illness -- symptoms such as chest pain, stomach problems, or fever -- rather than those of a mental disorder.
Note: Although Munchausen syndrome most properly refers to a factitious disorder with primarily physical symptoms, the term is sometimes used to refer to factitious disorders in general. In this article, Munchausen syndrome refers to factitious disorder with physical symptoms.
People with this syndrome deliberately produce or exaggerate symptoms in several ways. They might lie about or fake symptoms, hurt themselves to bring on symptoms, or alter diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample). Possible warning signs of Munchausen syndrome include the following:
The exact cause of Munchausen syndrome is not known, but researchers believe both biological and psychological factors play a role in the development of this syndrome. Some theories suggest that a history of abuse or neglect as a child, or a history of frequent illnesses requiring hospitalization might be factors associated with the development of this syndrome. Researchers also are studying the possible link with personality disorders, which are common in individuals with Munchausen syndrome.
There are no reliable statistics regarding the number of people in the United States who suffer from Munchausen syndrome, but it is considered to be rare. Obtaining accurate statistics is difficult because of dishonesty in representation. In addition, people with Munchausen syndrome tend to seek treatment at many different health care facilities, which causes misleading statistics.
While Munchausen syndrome can occur in children, it most often affects young adults.
Diagnosing Munchausen syndrome is very difficult because of the dishonesty that is involved. Doctors must rule out any possible physical and mental illnesses, and often use a variety of diagnostic tests and procedures before considering a diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome.
If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she might refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist -- mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. Psychiatrists and psychologists use a thorough a medical history and physical, laboratory imagery, and psychological assessment tools to evaluate a person for Munchausen syndrome. The doctor bases his or her diagnosis on the exclusion of actual physical or other mental illness, and his or her observation of the patient's attitude and behavior.
Questions to be answered include:
The doctor then determines if the patient's symptoms point to Munchausen syndrome as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), which is the standard reference book for recognized mental illnesses in the United States.
Although a person with Munchausen syndrome actively seeks treatment for the various disorders he or she invents, the person often is unwilling to admit to and seek treatment for the syndrome itself. This makes treating people with Munchausen syndrome very challenging, and the outlook for recovery poor.
When treatment is sought, the first goal is to modify the person's behavior and reduce his or her misuse or overuse of medical resources. Once this goal is met, treatment aims to work out any underlying psychological issues that might be causing the person's behavior or help them find solutions to housing or other social needs.
As with other factitious disorders, the primary treatment for Munchausen syndrome is psychotherapy (a type of counseling). Treatment likely will focus on changing the thinking and behavior of the individual (cognitive-behavioral therapy). Family therapy also might be helpful in teaching family members not to reward or reinforce the behavior of the person with the disorder, but often the person is estranged from his or her family.
There are no medicines to treat factitious disorders themselves. Medicine might be used, however, to treat any related disorder -- such as depression, anxiety, or a personality disorder. The use of medicines must be carefully monitored in people with factitious disorders due to the risk that the drugs might never be picked up from the pharmacy or might be used in a harmful way.
People with Munchausen syndrome are at risk for health problems (or even death) associated with hurting themselves or otherwise causing symptoms. In addition, they might suffer from reactions or health problems associated with multiple tests, procedures, and treatments; and are at high risk for substance abuse and suicide attempts.
Some people with Munchausen syndrome suffer one or two brief episodes of symptoms. In most cases, however, the disorder is a chronic, or long-term, condition that can be very difficult to treat. Further, many people with Munchausen syndrome deny they are faking symptoms and will not seek or follow treatment. Even with treatment, it is more realistic to work toward managing the disorder rather than to try curing it. Avoiding unnecessary, inappropriate admissions to the hospital, testing, or treatment is important.
There is no known way to prevent this disorder. However, it might be helpful to begin treatment in people as soon as they begin to have symptoms.
THis is from a copy right .........google and you will see .........LYN
.........This is so my DIL from Hades..........NO kidding at all
Post Edited (Howlyncat) : 3/14/2009 11:07:07 AM (GMT-6)
** I do agree that we have enough on our plates to do this to selves
Thats only my opinion on the article bro.....NO reflection on anyone here
Post Edited (Howlyncat) : 3/14/2009 11:15:11 AM (GMT-6)
Post Edited (Howlyncat) : 3/14/2009 5:58:53 PM (GMT-6)
I worked with a nurse that had this and she was always getting ill and having infections break out on her limbs. After many hospitalizations it was discovered she was injecting urine under her skin to get the attention she was seeking and would then be hospitalized as our Docs did not know what was wrong but they suspected after awhile.
She was caught in the act. It is another serious mental health problem. What a sad thing to have to do for attention.
I am sorry your DIL may have this problem, Big Sis.
Hugs to you
There are several mental health disorders considered to be factitious disorders. These disorders may vary from the Attention-Seeking Personality Disorders.
Attention-seeking is particularly noticeable with females.
Attention seekers commonly exploit the suffering of others to gain attention for themselves. Or they may exploit their own suffering, or alleged suffering. In extreme forms, such as in Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, the attention-seeker will deliberately cause suffering to others as a means of gaining attention.
Post Edited (stkitt) : 3/16/2009 4:28:21 PM (GMT-6)
The DIL is the one that has lupus lke SX and was supposedly DX with Pyoserma after seeing a dermy the first time......Not on maintenace meds but sure is on alot of opiates ....Has the one doc in town she just left losing licese and now has another doc believing her crud out in Calgary .........OY VEY.
AS you know it took me yrs and yrs to be DX with the PG.........
Post Edited (Howlyncat) : 3/16/2009 2:35:49 PM (GMT-6)