Factitious disorder is a serious mental disorder in which someone deceives others by feigning sickness, by purposely making themselves sick, or by self-injury. Factitious disorder can include both feigned psychological and physically feigned illnesses. Factitious disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe. Having a factitious disorder is not the same as inventing medical problems to get out of school, work, or other undesired obligations, but for seeking and securing attention. Although people with factitious disorder may be aware they are causing their own symptoms or illness, they may not understand the reasons and or motivations behind their behavior.

It is commonly known Factitious disorder is hard to treat. However, medical and psychological help are essential for preventing and or mitigating some of the serious consequences that can occur or become exacerbated by the disorder, such as serious injury or death. A considerable amount of effort and time is required to maintain the appearance of the illness, as there is always the risk of causing serious injury or death. Careless mistakes or those that have not been properly planned or timed can leave those with the disorder with a more significant problem than just the factitious disorder.

People with factitious disorders often feign sickness, mimicking symptoms of a real illness, may contaminate urine samples, or cause self-injury in order to make themselves truly appear sick. People with this disorder behave this way because of an inner need to be seen as ill or injured, not to achieve a clear benefit, such as financial gain. People with factitious disorders are even willing and sometimes eager to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to obtain the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill or have a loved one who is ill. Factitious disorders are considered mental illnesses because they are associated with severe emotional difficulties.

Symptoms of Factitious Disorder include:

  • Convincing medical problems or symptoms
  • Frequent hospitalizations or clinic visits
  • Vague, inconsistent, or sudden symptoms that appear without warning in spite of good health
  • Symptoms and or conditions that appear to get worse for no apparent reason
  • Symptoms that do not appear to respond as expected to treatment
  • Initiating frequent testing, requesting or consenting to risky operations
  • Extensive knowledge of medical terms and diseases extending beyond scope of knowledge & education
  • Seeking treatment from many different doctors or hospitals
  • Reluctance to allow health professionals to talk to family or friends or coordinate medical information with other treatment providers
  • Insistence about receiving a formal diagnosis, typically the diagnosis they have selected
  • Multiple requests for pain relievers or other medications

Treatment options for factitious disorder can include in or outpatient treatment facilities, support groups, individual & familial counseling, medicinal interventions (although there are no specific medications for factitious disorder, but medication can be used for underlying issues such as depression or anxiety), and effective treatment planning. Treatment goals for a factitious disorder should consist of modifying the person’s behavior maintain the disorder and reducing the suffers use and abuse of medical resources.

Joan & Todd

Joan and Todd have been married for 7 years. The first five years of their marriage was by all accounts very happy, however, the last two years have been very difficult. Todd has been carrying on a 2-year affair with a woman at his job, leading to his distraction at home and inability to be intimate with his wife. Joan became aware of her husband’s infidelity a year and a half ago after receiving anonymous emails informing her of the affair. Fearing her husband would be leaving her for his mistress, Joan began to feign symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Joan battled and overcame ovarian cancer during the early phase of her dating relationship with her now husband. Joan began to demand more and more of her husband’s time, attention, and support. Feeling guilty about his affair while his wife was “obviously ill” Todd once again rededicated himself to the marriage. However, whenever Todd attempted to support his wife by accompanying her to her medical visits she would decline. Feeling like her plan to get her husband back was working and needing to maintain his attention, Joan began taking medications to make her nauseous. Every time she thought she felt her husband’s attention slipping away again she would escalate in her behaviors.

Where is this going?