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Factitious Disorder

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  • Factitious Disorder

    Factitious Disorder is a mental disorder in which a person acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when, in fact, he or she has consciously created their symptoms. The name factitious comes from the Latin word for "artificial." People with Factitious Disorder deliberately create or exaggerate symptoms of an illness in several ways. They may lie about or mimic symptoms, hurt themselves to bring on symptoms, or alter diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample).Those with Factitious Disorders have an inner need to be seen as ill or injured, but not to achieve a concrete benefit, such as a financial gain.

    Individuals with Factitious Disorder are even willing to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to obtain the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill. Factitious Disorder is considered a mental illness because it is associated with severe emotional difficulties. Many people with Factitious Disorder may also suffer from other mental disorders, particularly personality disorders.

  • Factitious Disorder

    Symptoms:

    • Dramatic but inconsistent medical history
    • Unclear symptoms that are not controllable, become more severe, or change once treatment has begun
    • Predictable relapses following improvement in the condition
    • Extensive knowledge of hospitals and/or medical terminology, as well as the textbook descriptions of illness
    • Presence of many surgical scars
    • Appearance of new or additional symptoms following negative test results
    • Presence of symptoms only when the patient is alone or not being observed
    • Willingness or eagerness to have medical tests, operations, or other procedures
    • History of seeking treatment at many hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices, possibly even in different cities
    • Reluctance by the patient to allow health care professionals to meet with or talk to family members, friends, and prior health care providers
  • Factitious Disorder

    Diagnosis:

    A health care provider may suspect factitious disorder when:

    • The person's medical history doesn't make sense
    • No believable reason exists for the presence of an illness or injury
    • The illness does not follow the usual course
    • There is a lack of healing for no apparent reason, despite appropriate treatment
    • There are contradictory or inconsistent symptoms or lab test results
    • The person is caught in the act of lying or causing his or her injury
  • Factitious Disorder

    Treatment:

    The primary treatment for Factitious Disorder is psychotherapy (a type of counseling). Treatment likely will focus on changing the thinking and behavior of the individual with the disorder (cognitive-behavioral therapy). Family therapy also may be helpful in teaching family members not to reward or reinforce the behavior of the person with the disorder. There are no medications to actually treat Factitious Disorder. Medication may be used, however, to treat any related disorder, such as depression or anxiety. The use of medications must be carefully monitored in people with Factitious Disorder due to the risk that the drugs may never be picked up from the pharmacy or may be used in a harmful way.

    Statistics:

    Factitious disorder is characterized by the invention, production or falsification of physical and psychological symptoms that feign a physical or mental illness. In a study, a total of 25% of the patients with suspicion criteria for factitious disorder with psychological symptoms also had physical symptoms considered to be factitious during the hospitalization and 62% of patients with factitious symptoms developed intense relationships with other patients.

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