Munchausen Syndrome is also known as factitious disorder. There are many kinds of factitious disorders, but Munchausen syndrome is considered the most severe. This is a mental illness where the patients have a compulsive need to fake being sick. This is different from hypochondria in that patients usually do not believe they are really sick but will continue to act as if they were sick.
The syndrome is named after one of the world’s most famous liars, Baron Karl Friedrich von Munchausen (1720 – 1797). The cause is unknown but patients most prone to developing it are from 20 to 40 years old. Patients with Munchausen syndrome often have other mental health issues, especially Munchausen syndrome by proxy (factitious syndrome by proxy). This is a form of child abuse where the caretaker of a child fakes that child’s illness through lies or direct abusive actions such as refusing to feed the child.
Symptoms vary wildly depending on what type of illness the patient wants the medical profession to believe he or she has.
A bizarre medical history, a conflicting medical history which suggests lies are being told, many scars on the patient, highly knowledgeable about medical procedures and terms, goes to many hospitals and doctors over a short period of time; develops new symptoms after tests show that nothing is wrong.
There is no cure for Munchausen syndrome. Patients have been known to get better when they stick to a plan strict plan.
Therapy and medication are most effective for people affected with Munchausen syndrome. However, getting a patient to stick to a treatment plan is highly difficult. Family therapy and talk therapy (better known as psychotherapy) have produced good results but these types of therapies are expensive and difficult programs to get into.
Children who have been the victims of adults with Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy are themselves prone to developing Munchausen’s syndrome. Therapy needs to begin for these children as soon as they can be separated from their abusers.