Several factors may put someone at higher risk of developing Munchausen syndrome, including:

  • Childhood trauma, such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • A serious illness during childhood that allowed them to be cared for and nurtured
  • A relative with a serious illness
  • A poor sense of identity or self-esteem
  • Loss of a loved one through death, illness or abandonment early in life
  • Unfulfilled desire to be a doctor or other health professional
  • Work in the health care field
  • Personality disorders

Munchausen syndrome is considered rare, but it's not known how many people have the disorder. Some people use fake names to avoid detection, some visit many different hospitals and doctors, and some are never found out — all of which make it difficult to make a reliable estimate.

More males are diagnosed with Munchausen, and it seems to be more common among young or middle-aged adults.

May. 13, 2011