In the list of unknown reasons for someone experiencing mental health disorders, Munchausen Syndrome or Factitious Disorder listed in DSM 5 peaks curiosity.
What is Factitious Disorder?
In simple terms, it is presenting self or someone else (by proxy) as sick or impaired in some way. It includes signs and symptoms that may not have any logical connection and the test results can disprove the physiological claims.
In DSM 5 it is included in the ‘Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorder’, I would categorize it more as a Histrionic Personality Disorder. Histrionic Personality is consisting of attention seeking or over-reactive behavior that can be very draining and damaging to relationships, leading to becoming more needy and dramatic reactions.
Though Munchausen can exist in ‘self’, I feel that perhaps it is more often dismissed as hypochondria. Munchausen by Proxy can be just as confusing but does seem to be more common. Generally, Munchausen by Proxy is something that the caretaker, primarily mothers of young children or someone with some healthcare knowledge, may experience for a number of reasons. Though most reasons are unknown due to lack of data, the caretaker may be in a situation where he/she has almost no support or they can be dismissed regardless of their contribution. By creating or intensifying the symptoms, they are praised as loveable, caring, and selfless individuals rather than “free help.”
If there is no real/official data, how can you “catch” someone with Munchausen (by proxy)?
- Experiencing multiple unrelated health issues or symptoms in a short period of time?
- Is the focus more on ‘socializing’ than the ill individual?
Earlier I mentioned that this may be more of Histrionic Personality Disorder issue because of the need for attention this issue creates. Whether it is for self or being a caretaker for someone else, seeking and receiving attention is extremely important. In all the chaos, it is also important to remember that this is considered abuse and will have a long-lasting physical and psychological impact on the victim’s life.
Because it is so difficult to diagnose, it is difficult to study the impact of a specific type of therapy that may be considered the best method to treat Factitious Disorder. Someone suffering from this is most likely unwilling to admit to this disorder, making it even more difficult to treat. The initial step may be to provide support or a way to process the struggle this individual is experiencing due to the illness and perhaps open a dialogue regarding the thoughts and behavior associated with this disorder that could benefit from some “shift.” I believe that our behaviors are caused by some unmet need and if we are able to identify that need, we may be able to figure out a way to fulfill them, leading to a healthier life for all around.
It is impossible to categorize all the different ways our mind reaches out for help; the most important thing is to recognize that there is a need and there is help available. If you have any experience as a victim of Factitious Disorder, you can overcome the trauma. Seek treatment- both physical and emotional for a healthy future.