Munchausen’s syndrome


Signs and symptoms ofMunchausen's syndrome may include pretending to be ill or self-harming to aggravate or induce illness.

There are four main ways people with Munchausen's syndrome fake or induce illnesses, including:

  • lying about symptomsfor example, choosing symptoms that are difficult to disprove, such as having a severe Headaches or pretending to have a seizure (fit) or to pass out
  • tampering with test resultsfor example, heating a thermometer to suggest a fever or adding blood to a urine sample
  • self-infliction for example, cutting or burning themselves, poisoning themselves with drugs, or eating food contaminated with bacteria
  • aggravating pre-existing conditions for example, rubbing faeces into wounds to cause an infection, or reopening previously healed wounds

Other signs

Someclues thata personmay haveMunchausen's syndrome include:

  • making frequent visits to hospitals in different areas
  • claiming to have a history of complex and serious medical conditions with no or little supporting documentary evidence people often claim they've spent a long time out of the country
  • having symptoms that don't correspond to test results
  • having symptoms that get worse for no apparent reason
  • havingvery good medical knowledge
  • receiving few or no hospital visitors many people with Munchausen's syndrome adopt a solitary lifestyle and have little contact with friends or family
  • being willingto undergo often painful or dangerous tests and procedures
  • reporting symptoms that are vague and inconsistent, or reporting a pattern of symptoms that are "textbook examples" of certain conditions
  • telling highly unbelievable and often very elaborate stories about their pastsuch as claiming to be a decorated war hero or that their parents are fantastically rich and powerful

Munchausen's by internet

Munchausen's by internet is a relatively new phenomenon where a person joins an internet support group for people with a serious health condition, such as cystic fibrosis or leukaemia, and then claims to have the illness themselves.

While these actions may only be confined to the internet, they can have a significant negative impacton support groups and online communities. For example, people with genuine health conditions have reported feelings of betrayal and anger upon discoveringthey've been lied to.

It's been suggested that the followingsignsmay suggestsomeone's online posts may not be genuine. They include:

  • posts and messagesthat contain large chunks of informationand appear to have been directly copied from health websites, such as NHS Choices
  • reports of experiencing symptoms that appear to be much more severe than most people would experience
  • making claimsof near-fatal bouts of illness followed by a miraculous recovery
  • making fantastic claimsthat they later contradict orare shown to be false by other peoplefor example, they may claim to be attending a certain hospital that doesn't actually exist
  • claimingto have continual dramatic events in their life, such as loved ones dying or being the victim of a violent crime, particularly when other group members have become a focus of attention
  • pretending to be unconcerned when they talk about serious problems,probably to attract attention and sympathy
  • other "people" claiming to post on their behalf, such as a parent or partner, but they use exactly the samestyle of writing
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 29 Jun 2016