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Are you suffering, or do you know someone suffering from a serious mental disorder? Having a mental illness changes your behavioral pattern. It can cause distress and can impair our personal functioning.

A factitious disorder is an example of a serious medical condition. It is a serious mental health condition imposed on oneself or others. They would purposely self-inflict injuries to deceive everyone of having the disease. Learn the signs and symptoms and ways to recognize the factitious disorder. 

What is Factitious Disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, factitious disorder is a condition where the person consciously acts as if they have a physical illness even if it doesn’t exist. These people are actually not sick. But they will do everything, even hurt themselves, just to deceive everyone that they do!

This kind of disorder is different from those who invent medical problems for a one-time situation, like acting out sick to skip school or winning a lawsuit. People with factitious disorders are aware that they are causing their illness. 

But they have no idea of what the reason is behind their behavior. A factitious disorder by a proxy is when a patient acts as if the person under their care is sick. They falsely present to the child or elderly that they are taking care of to be ill or injured.

Is Factitious Disorder a Mental Health Disorder?

Yes, a factitious disorder is a serious mental illness. The factitious disorder could be difficult to identify. Much more to diagnose or treat. The signs and symptoms are subjective, and there are no imaging scans to detect them. But, psychiatric help from a professional could prevent serious injuries caused by self-harm.

Two Types of Factitious Disorders

Factitious Disorder Imposed on Self

This is also known as the Munchausen Syndrome. It is a factitious disorder imposed on oneself. This is the type that includes faking physical or mental illness. The patient also mimics the behavior and other mental health disorders. People with these mental disorders may report hallucinations or appears confused.

Factitious disorder imposed on self gets attention or sympathy by faking an illness. They can easily lie about their symptoms or stage medical tests. They won’t think twice about hurting themselves to get a particular symptom.

Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another

This is previously called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. This type of factitious disorder is imposed on someone under the patient’s care. May it be a child or an elderly. It is when the patient will falsely claim that another person has physical or psychological signs.

People with this type of disorder will present another person as ill or injured. They will fabricate symptoms of a particular illness to those under their care. It usually occurs to mothers who intentionally hurt their children to get attention. These types of patients seriously need immediate medical and psychiatric help!

Factitious Disorder Symptoms

Most patients with the factitious disorder report physical symptoms that suggest a disorder. For example, reports of having fever and painful urination that suggests Urinary Tract Infection, which doesn’t actually exist. It could also be reports of recurring chest pain that suggest heart problems.

  • People suffering from this disorder familiarize themselves with the disease they pretend to have. Some will do everything to provide evidence for their deception. 
  • They will purposely hurt themselves, fake medical records, or undergo unnecessary surgery if needed. For example, one might even prick a finger and drop blood in the urine specimen to prove the symptoms.
  • Symptoms of factitious disorder involve producing or acting out an injury. They exaggerate symptoms to make it more believable. 
  • Patients with the disorder will risk their safety to keep their act. Sometimes this behavioral pattern makes it impossible to tell if their symptoms are a part of a serious condition. And when asked about their “illness”, they seemed to be all knowledgeable about it.
  • People with factitious disorders will continue their deception without any reason at all. They will not stop even when faced with pieces of evidence that deny their claims.
  • People with this serious mental health disorder are usually resourceful and wise. They seem to have extensive knowledge about their signs and symptoms. 
  • They could even manipulate their medical care and diagnosis for a more intense treatment. They are fully aware of their deceit. But unaware of their motivation nor the reason why they do it.

Factitious Disorder Signs

Listed below are the common warning signs that people with the factitious disorder usually present:

  • Inconsistent and vague false medical history
  • Symptoms that are unclear and inconsistent
  • Sophisticated knowledge of medical care and medical terminology
  • Persistent symptoms that do not respond to standard therapies
  • presents new or additional symptoms after getting a negative result from diagnostic tests
  • Willing to undergo painful operations to prove deceit
  • Has a history of seeking treatment from hospitals or other medical centers
  • presence of multiple surgical scars
  • Forecasts serious medical outcomes without evidence
  • Refuses psychological evaluation
  • Eager to take painful or risky tests and operations
  • Exaggerating symptoms unsupported by medical evidence

How Does People with Factitious Disorder Fake Their Illness?

Faking symptoms to seek treatment is the main goal of having this disorder. They become so good at it that even mental health professionals fail to recognize the symptoms.

People with factitious disorder imposed on themselves can cause illness in many ways. Here are some examples of how they do it:

Making up Fake Medical Histories

They can present a fabricated and thorough medical history to support their symptoms. By doing this, their physicians might authorize unnecessary procedures. Treatments that they don’t actually need could lead to another health problem. Better knowledge about factitious disorders could prevent such risky medical errors.

Fake Symptoms

How do these patients fake their symptoms? There are a lot of ways. Some will go for an extreme approach, such as injecting themselves with bacteria to get the disease. There are some who overdose with OTC sedatives to fake seizures. 

Some patients would excessively ingest laxatives to fake diarrhea. These self-inflicted medical conditions could put their lives in danger. And these patients need serious psychiatric help.

Reluctance to Allow Physicians to Meet with Family Members

Most people with factitious disorder refuse confrontation. They don’t want their doctors to meet with their family members to confirm the diagnosis. If they want to keep their drama foolproof, they will have to keep their family away from it.

Risk Factors of Factitious Disorder

There are no known causes of factitious disorder. But there are a number of risk factors that could lead to the development of factitious disorders. These could be biological and psychological factors. Below are some of them: 

Underlying Mental Disorder

Having a history of mental problems or underlying psychological issues could increase the risk of developing a factitious disorder. Some patient tends to assume the sick role to gain attention. Receiving care from others is their way to cope with psychological stress. They will intentionally hurt themselves or others to feel that someone will care.

Childhood Trauma or Past Experiences

Traumatic experiences in the past, especially during childhood, could later result in several mental problems. Adults who experience child abuse become abusers themselves. This is a common trend, especially for adults who felt neglected when they were young. 

Most of them develop a factitious behavior to cope with the emotional trauma. It is possible that future offspring of these adults could become victims of a factitious behavior as well.

Death of a Loved One

Suddenly losing a loved one can cause major depression. It could also lead to other serious medical illnesses such as factitious disorder. Grief can trigger underlying mental issues that could lead to self-destruction. It is a way for some to feel alive during severe emotional difficulties.

People with Personality Disorders

People with factitious behavior mostly have an identity crisis. With a history of emotional and physical abuse during childhood, most suffer from low self-esteem. This instability with their past causes these patients to lose control of their lives. Tampering medical records and faking illness gives them a sense of control over something. This is why they do it.

People Who Desire to Be Associated With Medical Doctors

Some patients with factitious disorder are referred to as “hospital hobos”. They transfer from one hospital to another, seeking treatments. They tend to satisfy their need for comfort after seeing a medical practitioner. They develop a strong desire to be associated with doctors and medical centers.

Treatment Options

Factitious Disorder involves deceptive behaviors making it difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are subjective with every patient. Doctors must be experienced to be able to rule out Physical and mental Illnesses. But there are treatments available to help people with factitious disorders.

The treatment options mostly focus on managing the condition.

  • Getting primary treatment from the correct medical team: Proper diagnosis is important to prevent further problems. The patient has to avoid transferring from one hospital to another.
  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, together with talk therapy, could help these patients. It aims to control stress and enhance coping strategies.
  • Proper medication to control anxiety and depression: Controlling the underlying psychological problems helps prevent further mental issues.

When To Seek For Help?

Unlike other mental problems, people with factitious disorders are conscious of their condition. They are aware of the risk of injury caused by their behavior. When these patients started to inflict injuries to themselves and others, then they already needed help. Offer them care and help in finding the right treatment.

If you think you might have signs of a factitious disorder or want to learn more about it, we can help. You have to understand that the symptoms that you are experiencing are subjective. You might be at risk for mental health problems. If you need support and assistance regarding your mental health, you could always contact us at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). You can set an appointment on our website KCC Direct Service. Have mental health counseling at your convenience.

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