Munchausen’s syndrome is a unique psychiatric disorder where the patient actually feigns or fakes an illness, disease, or trauma for the sole purpose of being treated as a medical patient. People with Munchausen’s syndrome will go to the extreme of going from hospital to hospital and doctor to doctor until they have exhausted the medical community’s resources in trying to figure out what they have; hence, this condition is also referred to as “hospital hopper syndrome” or “hospital addiction syndrome.” Nurses will sometimes humorously call patients with this disorder “frequent flyers.”
How Munchausen syndrome received its name
Munchausen syndrome received its name from Dr. Richard Asher, the senior physician in charge of the mental ward at Central Middlesex Hospital, coined the term in a 1951 article in The Lancet. The term was so given after a patient by the name of Baron von Munchausen was known to share his amazing tales about his made up exploits.
Munchausen syndrome is an older term for what is more currently and commonly listed as a factitious disorder.
Causes; is it a form of hypochondria?
At this point there are no known causes of Munchausen syndrome due to the already problematic nature of the dishonesty surrounding the purported illness or illnesses by the said patient. Some clinical experts theorize that Munchausen syndrome is simply a defense mechanism against sexual and aggressive impulses. Others have noted that it could be a form of self-punishment.
A few important distinctions that need to be made with people with Munchausen syndrome is that they do not make up these symptoms in order to gain any practical benefit that some do by pursuing a lawsuit or getting out of work. The whole impetus behind this serious mental disorder is the desire of the patient to have some deep emotional need met by the medical community.
It is different than hypochondria in that hypochondriacs truly believe that they are sick whereas someone with Munchausen syndrome simply want to be sick and knowingly exaggerate or fabricate symptoms. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is where the patient tries to convince the medical community that their child is sick through making up symptoms. They will even inflict injury (abuse) upon their own child in order to get attention for themselves by the medical community.
Patients with Munchausen syndrome may exhibit in some way any of the following four common symptoms:
1) Fakery. They may act like they are in severe abdominal pain, feign a seizure or even pass out. These patients have adequate and extensive knowledge of medical terms to make themselves sound convincing. They will go to great lengths to share their long medical histories and with great dramatic flare.
2) Falsified medical histories.
Even though they purport to have an extensive medical history, it is all fabrication. One way you can spot their deception is by their reluctance to allow the medical community to speak with family or friends and they have relatively few visitors while they are in the hospital.
3) Self-injury. People with this condition will go to extreme measures to convince the medical community they are indeed sick. They will inject themselves with bacteria, gasoline, fecal matter and even cut or burn themselves. Another trait that makes them so convincing is their willingness to undergo risky operations once a possible diagnosis is made. They will even interfere with wounds by reopening cuts.
4) Tampering. In order to convince the medical professionals that something indeed is wrong with them they will manipulate medical instruments like heat up thermometers or contaminate their urine samples.
People with Munchausen syndrome may be well aware of the risks they take by self-inflicting injury, willing to undergo operations, and tampering with medical instruments, but simply are unable to control their compulsive behavior. Even though they pose a risk to themselves they are highly unlikely to seek help, ironically, for a very “real” medical problem (i.e. mental problem) that they have.
Adriana Diaz made the news when she self-inflicted injury on herself by dousing herself with acid. In the following YouTube video Dr. Jeff Gardere explains Munchausen syndrome and how Adriana Diaz is a very real likely candidate to be diagnosed with it. Click here to hear.