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What is Munchausen syndrome?

Munchausen syndrome is a severe form of a mental illness known more properly now as factitious disorder. People who have Munchausen syndrome seek medical services repeatedly for symptoms and injuries that are either made up or that they cause to themselves. Typically, people who have Munchausen syndrome cause their symptoms to seek attention and gain the kind of sympathy usually reserved for people who suffer from serious illness.

Signs that someone has Munchausen syndrome may include:
  • frequent hospitalizations, often with few visitors
  • reluctance to allow hospital personnel to speak with family members
  • vague or inconsistent symptoms
  • conditions that don't respond to standard therapies or that worsen with no apparent reason
  • extensive knowlege and an intense interest in medical terms and diseases
  • eagerness to have frequent testing or medical procedures
  • pattern of going to multiple hospitals, medical facilities, or doctors
Patients may even induce a genuine medical condition (even a life-threatening one) by using dangerous means to produce symptoms or by prompting medical practitioners to perform unnecessary and risky treatments.

To diagnose Munchausen syndrome, doctors usually rule out physical causes for symptoms first, then make a referral for psychiatric evaluation. Once diagnosed, a person may be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and family or group therapy.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.