Munchausen syndrome

Munchausen syndrome is a mental health disorder in which a person intentionally produces physical or psychological symptoms of illness. A person with Munchausen syndrome acts from a need to be cared for, which may be in conflict with a distrust of health professionals.

The person may:

  • Claim that he or she has symptoms, when none exist.
  • Produce false test results, such as by sticking a thermometer in hot water to mimic a fever or by putting bacteria or something else in laboratory test samples.
  • Self-inflict injuries, such as cutting the skin.
  • Create symptoms, such as causing vomiting by taking medication.
  • Say that symptoms are worse than they really are, such as claiming to have severe pain or bleeding when a milder condition is actually present.
  • Request surgical procedures.

Treatment primarily consists of counseling to prevent the affected person from further self-harm and to stop providing unnecessary and potentially harmful medical treatment.

Last Updated: July 13, 2009

Author: Debby Golonka, MPH

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics

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