Factitious Disorder : Know the Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment


A person with a factitious condition deceives people by pretending to be ill, intentionally getting unwell, or inflicting harm on oneself. When family members or carers misrepresent others, such as children, as being unwell, damaged, or disabled, a factitious disorder can also result.

The symptoms of a factitious disease might be modest (a little exaggeration of symptoms) or severe (previously called Munchausen syndrome). The individual may fake symptoms or even tamper with medical examinations in order to convince others that therapy, such as high-risk surgery, is required.

Falsely reporting a medical condition to gain an advantage, such as being excused from work or winning a lawsuit, is not the same as fabricating a disorder. Although fictitious condition sufferers are aware of the factors contributing to their symptoms or illnesses, they may not grasp the explanations for their actions or admit they have a problem.

Factitious disorders are difficult to diagnose and cure. However, it is imperative to avoid the self-harm that is typical of this disorder, and both medical and psychological support are crucial.


It is uncertain what causes the factitious disorder. However, a mix of psychological issues and traumatic events may also contribute to the illness.

How to check if you have Factitious Disorder?

Although those who suffer from the factitious disorder may be fully aware of the dangers of self-harm or the therapy they seek, they are unable to regulate their activities and are less likely to seek help. They frequently dispute it and refuse psychiatric assistance, even when presented with concrete evidence — such as a recording — showing they are the cause of their disease.

Try to have a cordial chat with your loved one about your worries if you believe they may be fabricating or exaggerating their medical issues. Avoid being angry, harsh, or confrontational. Additionally, make an effort to focus less on dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors and more on reinforcing and encouraging more healthy, productive activities. Provide comfort, compassion, and, if you can, assistance in locating care.

Call the emergency services or, if it is safe to do so, send the person immediately away to an emergency hospital if they make an attempt at suicide or self-harm.

Risk Factors

Factitious disorder risk may be influenced by a number of circumstances, including:

  • Such as mental, physical, or sexual abuse throughout childhood
  • A  childhood illness that is serious
  • A loved one's passing, sickness, or desertion
  • Experiences with sickness in the past and the attention it received
  • A poor sense of identity or self-esteem
  • Personality disorders
  • Depression
  • Desire to be associated with doctors or medical centers
  • Work in the healthcare field

Factitious disorder is considered rare, but it is not known how many people have the disorder. It might be challenging to gather information on some people because they use false identities to escape discovery, frequent several hospitals and physicians, or go unidentified.


In order to deceive people, factitious disease symptoms may imitate, cause, or exaggerate a sickness, injury, or handicap. It may be challenging for individuals with the condition to recognise that their symptoms are truly a component of a major mental health issue since they go to great measures to conceal their dishonesty. They continue to deceive despite obtaining any apparent benefits or rewards or in the face of independent proof that contradicts their assertions.

Signs and symptoms of factitious disorders might include:

  • Clever and persuasive psychological or medical issues
  • Extensive understanding of ailments and medical terminologies
  • Uncertain or unpredictable symptoms
  • Symptoms that deteriorate without an obvious cause
  • Conditions that do not react to regular therapy as predicted
  • Seeking care from several different hospitals or doctors, with the use of a fictitious name
  • Unwillingness to let doctors speak with friends, family, or other medical professionals
  • Hospital stays that are frequent
  • Eagerness to engage in dangerous operations or frequent testing
  • Scars from several surgeries or other signs of a lot of treatments
  • Hospitalized with few visits
  • Arguing with the staff and physicians
  • One person's imposed irrationality
  • Falsely asserting that another person exhibits physical or psychological symptoms of sickness, or intentionally inflicting harm or disease on another person with the purpose to deceive others, is known as factitious disorder inflicted on another (formerly known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy).

People who have this disease portray another person as ill, hurt, or incapable of functioning and insist that they require medical assistance. Typically, a parent would injure their child. A youngster who experiences this kind of maltreatment may be in grave danger of harm or needless medical attention.

It may be challenging for medical professionals and loved ones to determine whether illnesses are real or not since persons with factitious disorders become masters at fabricating symptoms, ailments, and injuries, or inflicting real harm upon themselves.

There are various methods by which people with factitious disorder exaggerate symptoms or produce diseases, including:

Exaggerating already present symptoms. They may exaggerate symptoms in order to look sicker or more disabled than they actually are, even when a real medical or psychiatric disease exists.

Inventing histories. They could fabricate a medical history to share with family members, carers, or support groups, such as saying they have AIDS or cancer. Alternatively, they can fabricate medical documents to show a condition.

feigning illness. They could pretend to have symptoms like nausea, convulsions, or fainting.

Harming oneself. They may inject themselves with germs, milk, gasoline, or excrement, for instance, to make themselves ill. They might cut, burn, or hurt themselves. To imitate ailments, they could take pharmaceuticals like blood thinners or diabetic pills. They could also cause cuts to reopen or become infected, which would prevent a wound from healing.

Tampering. They could alter medical equipment, such as heated thermometers, to distort results. Alternatively, they could falsify test results by contaminating the urine samples they provide with blood or other substances.


The factitious disorder has no recognised cause, hence there is also no known means to stop it. Early diagnosis and treatment of factitious illness may help prevent needless testing and treatments that might be harmful.


There are no established treatments for factitious conditions, making treatment challenging frequently. People with factitious disorders frequently refuse to seek or accept treatment for the disease because they wish to play the sick part. However, a person with a factitious illness could consent to receive treatment from a mental health professional if contacted in a kind, nonjudgmental manner.

Direct charges of factitious disorder usually result in the affected person becoming angry and defensive, leading them to suddenly discontinue a connection with a doctor or hospital and seek treatment elsewhere. In order to avoid the embarrassment of having to admit to fabricating symptoms, the doctor may try to find a way out while still providing information and support for your loved one.

For instance, the doctor could reassure you to tell a loved one that being left in the dark about a loved one's medical issues is stressful and that the stress itself could be the cause of certain bodily concerns. The doctor may also request your loved one's consent to jointly examine the possibility of a potential psychological explanation for the sickness if the next round of therapy fails.

In any case, the doctor will make an effort to direct your loved one to treatment by a mental health specialist. Without drawing undue attention to symptoms and limitations, both medical professionals and close family members may encourage productive, healthful habits.

Instead of attempting to cure the problem, treatment frequently focuses on controlling it. Treatment often entails:

A primary care doctor. Utilizing a single physician or another gatekeeper to manage medical care can aid in the management of necessary care, the treatment plan, and the reduction or elimination of visits to various physicians, surgeons, and specialists.

Psychotherapy. Both talk therapy (psychotherapy) and behavior therapy can aid in stress management and coping mechanism development. If at all feasible, family counseling may also be recommended. It is also possible to treat depression and other mental health issues.

Medication. Additional mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may also be treated with medication.

Hospitalization. For safety and therapy, it may be necessary for extreme circumstances to spend a brief period of time in a mental institution.

Particularly for those with severe factitious disorders, treatment may not be accepted or may not be beneficial. In these situations, the aim could be to forego more intrusive or dangerous therapies. When the factitious disorder is present

Lifestyle and Home cures

These suggestions may aid those with factitious conditions in addition to medical care:

Adhere to your treatment schedule. Attend treatment sessions and take prescription drugs as prescribed. Speak openly with your therapist or primary care physician if you have the desire to hurt yourself or make yourself sick in order to find healthier coping mechanisms.

Have a gatekeeper for health. Have your medical treatment managed by a dependable primary care doctor rather than seeing several different doctors, specialists, and surgeons.

Consider the dangers. Every time you damage yourself or undergo an unnecessary dangerous test or procedure, remind yourself that you may suffer permanent harm or even death.

Do not flee. Avoid the impulse to change your doctor or relocate. a place where the medical staff is unaware of your history. You may defeat these strong cravings with the assistance of your therapist.

Get in touch with someone. Many persons who suffer from the factitious disorder are socially and romantically isolated. Look for someone you can trust, with whom you can have fun and with whom you can provide assistance.

Complications of Factitious Disorder

Factitious disorder patients are prepared to put their lives in danger to be recognised as unwell. They frequently also suffer from other mental health conditions. They thus confront a wide range of potential difficulties, such as:

  • Injuries or fatalities brought on by self-inflicted illnesses
  • Severe health issues brought on by infections, needless surgery, or other interventions
  • Loss of organs or limbs as a result of pointless surgery
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Significant issues in relationships, employment, and daily life
  • Abuse is when another person is subjected to the conduct


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Page last reviewed: Mar 16, 2023

Next review due: Mar 16, 2025

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