How is Munchausen syndrome diagnosed?

Joni Johnston

Munchausen syndrome is often diagnosed by process of elimination. Doctors must first rule out - through a variety of tests and procedures - any possible physical and mental illnesses. If the doctor finds no physical reason for the symptoms, he or she may then refer the person to a psychiatrist or psychologist who is specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

The mental health professional will then submit the patient to a battery of interviews, tests and assessments to evaluate the patient's emotional functioning. Based on the exclusion of actual physical or other psychiatric disorders, and his or her observation of the patient’s attitude and behavior, a diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome will be made. 

Deborah Davis
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Diagnosing Munchausen syndrome is often extremely difficult.  People with Munchausen are experts at faking many different diseases and conditions.  And often they do have real and even life-threatening medical conditions, even though these conditions may be self-inflicted. Munchausen syndrome is diagnosed as a type of factitious disease.  To help determine if someone has Munchausen syndrome, mental health providers conduct a detailed interview and also run tests for possible physical problems. To be diagnosed with factitious disorder, someone must meet criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. For factitious disorder to be diagnosed, three criteria must be met, including:  intentionally faking or producing symptoms,a motivation to be seen as sick, and the motivation isn't for financial or legal reasons, such as collecting a settlement.

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