Munchausen Syndrome (cont.)
Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Munchausen syndrome facts
- What is Munchausen syndrome?
- What causes Munchausen syndrome?
- What are Munchausen syndrome symptoms and signs?
- How is Munchausen syndrome diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for Munchausen syndrome?
- What is the prognosis for Munchausen syndrome?
- Can Munchausen syndrome be prevented?
- Where can people get more information about Munchausen syndrome?
- Find a local Psychiatrist in your town
What are Munchausen syndrome symptoms and signs?
The specific signs and symptoms of Munchausen syndrome can be extremely varied, from heart symptoms like fainting and chest pain, to ear problems seen by specialists in that area, to overtly psychiatric symptoms like hallucinations. Although the specific symptoms that the individual complains of are nearly limitless, sufferers may have in common a tendency to seek care from multiple care providers and hospitals, seem excessively pleased to be subjected to multiple tests and procedures, have symptoms that are vague and/or inconsistent with test results, have an illogical course to their illness, usually worsening, an unwillingness to allow current health care professionals to talk to family members or previous care providers, and an excessive desire to receive medications. Interestingly, the symptoms of Munchausen syndrome are very similar in children and adolescents as they are in adults.
How is Munchausen syndrome diagnosed?
As occurs with some psychiatric diagnoses, there is ongoing debate about how to best understand and diagnose Munchausen syndrome. The diagnosis as indicated by the widely accepted criteria set by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) requires that the sufferer exhibit the following:
- Purposeful production or pretending to have physical or mental health signs or symptoms
- Being able to assume the role of a sick person is the motivation for the behavior
- Other motivators for the behavior (for example, financial gain, avoiding legal consequences, or improving physical well-being) are not present.
There are three types of Munchausen syndrome: primarily mental health signs and symptoms, primarily physical signs and symptoms, and a combination of physical and mental health signs and symptoms.
There is no specific definitive test, like a blood test, that can accurately assess that a person has Munchausen syndrome. Therefore, practitioners conduct a mental health interview that looks for the presence of the symptoms previously described. As with any mental health assessment, the professional will usually work toward ruling out other mental disorders and ensuring that the individual is not suffering from a primary medical problem or from medical issues that may cause emotional symptoms. He or she will often inquire about when the person has most recently had a physical examination, comprehensive blood work, and any other tests that a medical professional deems necessary to ensure that the individual is not suffering from a true medical condition instead of or in addition to potentially feigning or manufacturing symptoms. Also of significant importance is the practitioner reviewing any available previous medical records and talking to other people who may be in the person's life (for example, current or previous treating professionals, the spouse, or other family members) in order to explore the possibility that there is a pattern of the individual making up or inducing illness in previous instances.
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