Factitious disorder is a serious mental disorder in which someone deceives others by appearing sick, by purposely getting sick or by self-injury. Factitious disorder also can happen when family members or caregivers falsely present others, such as children, as being ill, injured or impaired.

Factitious disorder symptoms can range from mild (slight exaggeration of symptoms) to severe (previously called Munchausen syndrome). The person may make up symptoms or even tamper with medical tests to convince others that treatment, such as high-risk surgery, is needed.

Factitious disorder is not the same as inventing medical problems for practical benefit, such as getting out of work or winning a lawsuit. Although people with factitious disorder know they are causing their symptoms or illnesses, they may not understand the reasons for their behaviors or recognize themselves as having a problem.

Factitious disorder is challenging to identify and hard to treat. However, medical and psychiatric help are critical for preventing serious injury and even death caused by the self-harm typical of this disorder.

May 31, 2017
  1. Factitious disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  2. Factitious disorder imposed on self. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/somatic-symptom-and-related-disorders/factitious-disorder-imposed-on-self. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  3. Yates GP, et al. Factitious disorder: A systematic review of 455 cases in the professional literature. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2016;41:20.
  4. Irwin MR, et al. Factitious disorder imposed on self (Munchausen syndrome). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 31, 2107.
  5. Ferri FF. Factitious disorder (including Munchausen syndrome). In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2017. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  6. Marx JA, et al., eds. Factitious disorders and malingering. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 31, 2017.
  7. Kahn A, et al. Factitious disorder in Crohn's disease: Recurrent pancytopenia caused by surreptitious ingestion of 6-mercaptopurine. Case Reports in Gastroenterology. 2015;9:137.
  8. Jones TW, et al. Factitious disorder-by-proxy simulating fetal growth restriction. Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2015;125:732.
  9. Burton MC, et al. Munchausen syndrome by adult proxy: A review of the literature. Journal of Hospital Medicine. 2015;10:32.
  10. Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 28, 2017.