What is Factitious Disorder and How Can You Overcome It?
By Dr Becky Spelman
Factitious Disorder is a somatic symptom disorder – also known as Munchausen Syndrome – in which the individual feigns either physical or mental illness. It can be an extremely hard condition to diagnose. Their claims of suffering from a certain condition may be fabricated, but sometimes, the symptoms may be real. In some cases, the sufferer can be extremely knowledgeable about the condition they’re claiming and may have inflicted pain on themselves or induced symptoms to legitimise their claims.
Although the DSM-5 groups Factitious Disorder within the Somatic Symptom Disorder grouping, it is something of an anomaly. Unlike other conditions within that group, such as conversion disorder, pain disorder and others, the individual doesn’t experience pain apart from that which they cause themselves. And although there are some similarities to health anxiety, the condition remains within its own bracket of categorisation.
The motivations behind Factitious Disorder are usually rooted in garnering attention. However, this often takes place on the subconscious level. Many people who suffer from the condition don’t realise what they’re doing. Their actions are based on an emotional neediness that sees them adopt the role of victim to elicit a caring response from friends, relatives and most importantly, medical professionals.
This can often relate to feelings of abandonment that were seeded in childhood. Where Factitious Disorder is concerned, there is often no tangible reward involved. There is no ulterior motive involving time off work, money and or any other benefits that can be derived from feigning illness.
Here are some of the biggest signs and symptoms that may indicate someone is suffering from Factitious Disorder.
Demonstrating extensive knowledge about the condition they’re claiming trouble with.
Giving a vague explanation of symptoms that appear inconsistent.
The condition gets worse with no indication why.
The condition doesn’t respond to standard therapies.
The person will refuse doctors permission to speak to friends and family.
The person is frequently staying in hospital.
There is an openness to surgery and tests with known side-effects.
Will open question the knowledge of doctors and nurses.
Will have few visitors if staying in hospital.
In the first instance, diagnosing someone with Factitious Disorder is extremely difficult because they can be so adept at faking/manufacturing the symptoms of the condition they’re citing. Unfortunately, there is no preventative measures that can be taken before several episodes have played out and a pattern has been established, because the tendency is to be supportive of someone who’s claiming either physical or psychological distress. The irony is that although someone will actively seek treatment for their fictitious condition, rarely will they seek help for Factitious Disorder, itself.
When someone does seek help for their condition, the primary route would be psychotherapy. Since Factitious Disorder is a behavioural issue, the most effective form of treatment would be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Using this approach will allow the individual to modify their behaviour, creating new, more positive patterns that will replace the need to seek out attention. It can also be beneficial for the person to take part in family therapy in conjunction to educate relatives on the need not reinforce the attention-seeking behaviour.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling with your factitious disorder and think you might benefit from speaking to someone about your situation, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.
Mayo Clinic. (2018) Factitious Disorder.Retrieved on 15th January, 2020 from, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/factitious-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356034
WebMD. (2018) Munchausen Syndrome.Retrieved on 15th January, 2020 from, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/munchausen-syndrome#1
Cleveland Clinic. (2018) An Overview of Factitious Disorder.Retrieved on 15th January, 2020 from, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9832-an-overview-of-factitious-disorders
What is Factitious Disorder and How Can You Overcome It? was last modified: January 7th, 2021 by Dr Becky Spelman
Although schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder both share the same prefix, they're actually separate conditions from one another. They both fall within the criteria of psychotic disorders within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), but both present in different circumstances, despite there being some overlap between the two.....
Until recently, there has been some hesitation to provide a diagnosis for ADHD and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). The need for a double diagnosis was seen as an unnecessary move, given the strong overlap between conditions. It was thought for a child to suffer from both merely necessitated further observation of their behavioural patterns. And there is a strong argument for this line of thinking.....
The terms psychopath and sociopath aren't definitions that you can readily find in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And you certainly won't receive either as a diagnosis from your therapist or doctor. If someone is exhibiting the types of behaviours associated with either of these conditions, they're more likely to be considered as having anti-social behaviour disorder.....
You may not believe this, but binge eating disorder (BED) is a relatively common condition. It's defined in the DSM-5 as a recurrence of frequent overeating within a short space of time – usually two hours or less. During this time, the affected individual will often lose control of inhibitions and their behaviour, which causes them to experience a form of mental blackout.....
Our behaviour is what defines our character. It is who we are. Many people often refer back to the saying, 'actions speak louder than words,' because it sums up how we make considered judgement about one another. Behaviour is the cornerstone of our society, and it should come as no surprise that creating positive behavioural change is key to making successful transitions from one chapter of your life to another.....
The term 'Daddy Issues' is a peculiar one within psychology. It's something that isn't exactly a clinical definition – at least not according to the DSM-5. But there is a lot of validity that can be given to its use. It's become something of a catch-all term.....