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Facticious disorder

Updated on June 20, 2014

Factitious disorder

Whenever I learn about something interesting that I didn't know about before, I enjoy researching it especially if it is a health related topic. Even if I have heard of a certain disease, condition, medicine or other health related topic before and it has much prevalence, I might still research it to learn even more as I did on the topic of hoarding.

With factitious disorder, I first learned about it as an actual condition in the past two years alone. I know that there are many people who might be labeled hypochondriacs if they fear going to the doctor for checkups or hyperchondriacs if they suspect they are ill more often than the average person, therefore making unnecessarily frequent visits to the doctor for checkups. Nevertheless, until that point two years ago, I had never heard of factitious disorder or if I did, I did not register in mind and I did not pay it much attention.

Now, I have been drawn to learning more about the condition. Factitious disorder is a condition whereby the individual is not sick but rather feigns sickness or exaggerates description of symptoms because they desire personal attention and empathy that is often found when one receives care from the doctors and nurses in a medical office or hospital.

This has been categorized as a psychological condition akin to narcissism or attention seeking behavior.

It is quite interesting that a condition of this sort even exists but it does indeed. So many health conditions of the present day are not easily understood.

In the academic Kaplan medical video below, the instructor describes not just factitious disorder but also factitious disorder by proxy where a parent might fake the illness of a child for example.

Many of us have seen the famously popular movie the Sixth Sense but back when we watched it years ago, we might not have noticed or realized that there is an actual name for the condition of a parent keeping a child ill by going to whatever unspeakable means such as poisoning to cause the display of symptoms. The most extreme cases of factitious disorder are known as Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

According to the Kaplan educational video, factitious disorder is seen more in men and workers in the health care field. Health care workers might know best just how to fake an ailment. Individuals with factitious disorder might also have a history of child abuse and now they are seeking nurturing, care and positive attention. Nevertheless, according to the third video displayed below from NHS UK, the factitious disorder is more prevalent in women than men in that region.

According to the video, individuals with factitious disorder or factitious disorder by proxy are aware of what they are doing. They know that they are displaying a socially unacceptable behavior of faking illness but they do not know why they are doing it. If confronted or accused, they might become very angry and defensive and ask how dare someone accuse them. The instructor in the video states that therapy is essential for people to understand why they are doing what they are doing and to learn how they can stop.


Helping Psychology


Family Medicine Help - Factitious Disorder

man on gurney
man on gurney | Source

The Cleveland Clinic on Factitious disorder

According to the educational medical information provided by the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, USA,

  • mental illness describes abnormal cognitive patterns to how a person thinks and acts,
  • factitious disorders are considered mental illnesses because they deal with emotional difficulties that are severe
  • a person with factitious disorder might exaggerate illness in numerous ways such as intentionally hurting themselves or tampering with medical diagnostic tests
  • people with factitious disorders might concurrently suffer from other mental disorders especially personality disorders that highlight poor coping mechanisms and inability to form relationships
  • someone with factitious disorder can present medical and/or psychological symptoms

The Cleveland Clinic website states that the symptoms of factitious disorder might include.:

  • Extensive knowledge of medical terminology to convincingly describe false symptoms
  • Eager willingness to undergo medical tests and even possibly painful surgery
  • Numerous surgical scars, evidence of past surgeries
  • A medical history that included numerous stays in hospitals perhaps in various states and cities

Among numerous other possible symptoms, there is also the reluctance of the patient to allow healthcare providers to speak with family members or their former healthcare providers.

Prevention and treatment

The Cleveland Clinic states that there is no really known prevention of factitious disorder but treatment should begin as soon as possible when the condition is identified/ diagnosed.

According to WebMD, psychotherapy to change thinking and behavior is one of the primary sources of treatment.

WebMD also states that left untreated, people with factitious disorder are at a higher risk for substance abuse and suicide attempts. Early treatment is key to preventing the possibilities that might occur without treatment.


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    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 3 years ago from USA

      Thank you all for commenting on this rare disorder that is tragically becoming more commonly talked about in recent news. It can be very scary indeed.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

      Very interesting. First heard of this disorder in a murder mystery, by Patricia Cornwell. Scary

    • profile image

      Lambservant 6 years ago

      Fascinating. I know someone with factitious by proxy. Her poor kids are in and out of the doctor all the time. As they've gotten older it's gotten better, but it has changed from physical ailments to psychiatric problems. Thanks for a great topic

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      In one of my centers, we had a child who feigned illness all the time to get attention. Her mother would pick her up and return with her later that day after seeing a doctor. This would happen at least once a week. Her mother knew this as a problem and she needed to address the child's need for care. Great hub topic and so informative. Thumbs up!