Factitious Disorders

Mental illness describes abnormal cognitive or emotional patterns related to how a person thinks, feels, acts, and/or relates to others and his or her surroundings. Two common examples are Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen by Proxy.
Munchausen Syndrome: A person intentionally makes themselves sick or gives themselves symptoms of false illnesses in order to get the attention that comes with being cared for. People affected by Munchausen Syndrome will go to extreme measures to make themselves sick due to a lack of attention or a perceived lack of attention. As shown at my.cleavelandclinic.org.
Munchausen by Proxy: Very similar to Munchausen Syndrome, but in the case of Munchausen by Proxy, the person afflicted will make others sick for the attention that the person will need from them to provide care. Typically parents will do this to their children, in order to get their child's attention and need. As shown at my.clevelandclinic.org.

Warning Signs Munchausen Syndrome:
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:
Dramatic but inconsistent medical history
Unclear symptoms that are not controllable and that become more severe or change once treatment has begun
Predictable relapses following improvement in the condition
Extensive knowledge of hospitals and/or medical terminology, as well as the textbook descriptions of illnesses
Presence of multiple surgical scars
Appearance of new or additional symptoms following negative test results
Presence of symptoms only when the patient is alone or not being observed
Willingness or eagerness to have medical tests, operations, or other procedures
History of seeking treatment at numerous hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices, possibly even in different cities
Reluctance by the patient to allow health care professionals to meet with or talk to family, friends, or prior health care providers
Problems with identity and self-esteem
More comfortable being in the hospital than you might think
Medical knowledge may be quite extensive from many hospitalizations or prior work

There are many forms this disorder may take which include: feigning cancer, cardiac disease, skin disorders, infections, bleeding disorders, metabolic disorders, chronic diarrhea and much more. (mycleavlandclinic.org.)

Causes: Very difficult, but researchers think psychological and biological facts are a key role in the development of this syndrome. One theory says maybe the patient with this syndrome was abused or neglected as a child or history of being hospitalized for frequent illnesses. Researchers are looking for a connection in personality disorders, which happen to be common with this syndrome. (myclevelandclinic.org)
Diagnosis is difficult, doctors have to cancel out any mental or physical illnesses; they often have to do a variety of diagnostic tests before claiming the person has Munchausen syndrome. (myclevelandclinic.org)

Treating Munchausen Syndrome:
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.

Complications: Health problems, even death. Possible suffering from the different procedures, tests and treatments. risk or suicide attempts and substance abuse. (myclevelandclinic.org)
No known way to prevent this syndrome.

Warning Signs for Munchausens by Proxy (MSBP)

People with MSP might create or exaggerate the child’s symptoms in several ways. They might simply lie about symptoms, alter diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample), falsify medical records, or induce symptoms through various means, such as poisoning, suffocating, starving, and causing infection. The presenting problem may also be psychiatric or behavioral.
Certain characteristics are common in a person with MSP:

Often is a parent, usually a mother, but can be the adult child of an elderly patient
Might be a health care professional
Is very friendly and cooperative with the health care providers
Appears quite concerned (some might seem overly concerned) about the child or designated patient
has edical skills or experience
Seems devoted to their child
Looks for sympathy and attention
Tries to hard ti become close and friendly with medical staff
Needs to feel powerful and in control
Does not see their behavior as harmful (www.webmd.com)

Might also suffer from Munchausen syndrome (This is a related disorder in which the caregiver repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she has caused the symptoms.)
Other possible warning signs of MSP in children include the following:

The child has a history of many hospitalizations, often with a strange set of symptoms.
Worsening of the child’s symptoms generally is reported by the mother and is not witnessed by the hospital staff.
The child’s reported condition and symptoms do not agree with the results of diagnostic tests.
There might be more than one unusual illness or death of children in the family.
The child’s condition improves in the hospital, but symptoms recur when the child returns home.
Blood in lab samples might not match the blood of the child.
There might be signs of chemicals in the child’s blood, stool, or urine.


Treatment of Munchausens by Proxy:

Successful treatment of people with MSP is difficult because those with the disorder often deny there is a problem. In addition, treatment success is dependent on the person telling the truth, and people with MSP tend to be such accomplished liars that they begin to have trouble telling fact from fiction. Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) generally focuses on changing the thinking and behavior of the individual with the disorder (cognitive-behavioral therapy). The goal of therapy for MSP is to help the person identify the thoughts and feelings that are contributing to the behavior, and to learn to form relationships This disorder can lead to serious short- and long-term complications, including continued abuse, multiple hospitalizations, and the death of the victim. (Research suggests that the death rate for victims of MSP is about 10 percent.) In some cases, a child victim of MSP learns to associate getting attention to being sick and develops Munchausen syndrome him or herself. Considered a form of child abuse, MSP is a criminal offense that is not associated with being ill.
This site gives you all the information you need about facticious disorders like symptoms, treatment, etc.: http://www.medicinenet.com/factitious_disorders/article.htm