Munchausen syndrome is a mental disorder in which a person routinely acts as if they have a true physical or mental health issue even though they are really not sick. A person with this condition will deliberately create, complain of, or exaggerate symptoms of an illness that does not really exist.1
The disorder has since been renamed and is now classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as “factitious disorder imposed on self.”
People with factitious disorder imposed on self (FDIS) will deliberately cause, misrepresent, and/or exaggerate their symptoms (physical or psychological).2 They may suddenly leave a hospital and move to another area when it is discovered that they are not being truthful.
People with Munchausen syndrome can be extremely manipulative since the main symptom of this disorder requires deception and dishonesty.
The following are some examples of behavior you may see in somebody with FDIS:3
- Complaining of neurological symptoms (such as seizures, dizziness, or blacking out), the presence of which are often difficult to determine
- Doing something to purposely injure themselves in order to cause illness (for example, drinking a poisonous substance to have a violent stomach reaction)2
- Exaggeration of an actual injury that may lead to additional and unnecessary medical intervention
- Falsifying medical records to specify an illness
- Manipulating a laboratory test (for example, by adding blood to urine or ingesting a medication) to obtain a false abnormal result
- Physically hurting themselves to cause an injury
- Reporting being depressed and suicidal following an event (like a death of a child) even though there was no death and/or the person does not even have a child