Types of Factitious Disorders
There are four main types of factitious disorders, including:
Factitious disorder with mostly psychological symptoms: As the description implies, people with this disorder mimic behavior that is typical of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia. They may appear confused, make absurd statements and report hallucinations, the experience of sensing things that are not there; for example, hearing voices. Ganser syndrome, sometimes called prison psychosis, is a factitious disorder that was first observed in prisoners. People with Ganser syndrome have short-term episodes of bizarre behavior similar to that shown by people with serious mental illnesses.
Factitious disorder with mostly physical symptoms: People with this disorder claim to have symptoms related to a physical illness, such as symptoms of chest pain, stomach problems, or fever. This disorder is sometimes referred to as Munchausen syndrome, named for Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German officer who was known for embellishing the stories of his life and experiences.
Factitious disorder with both psychological and physical symptoms: People with this disorder produce symptoms of both physical and mental illness.
Factitious disorder not otherwise specified: This type includes a disorder called factitious disorder by proxy (also called Munchausen syndrome by proxy). People with this disorder produce or fabricate symptoms of illness in another person under their care. It most often occurs in mothers (although it can occur in fathers) who intentionally harm their children in order to receive attention.
What Are the Symptoms of Factitious Disorders?
Possible warning signs of factitious disorders include:
- Dramatic but inconsistent medical history
- Unclear symptoms that are not controllable and that 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 with others or 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 doctors