Hello, I am an amateur writer aiming to break stigma and generate more understanding and informative content about mental health.
Today I am going to be talking about the most stigmatized mental illness that I have ever known about.
Something that you may or may not have heard of before.
What if I told you that there are people who want to be sick with serious and even life-threatening conditions?
What Is Munchausen Syndrome/FDIS?
Factitious Disorder Imposed on Self (FDIS) or previously known as Munchausen Syndrome, is a very serious and complicated mental illness in which somebody may feign, exaggerate or even induce symptoms or ailments for the purpose of gaining attention, care, sympathy and love.
The terms 'Munchausen syndrome' and 'factitious disorder/FDIS in this article will be interchangeable due to 'Munchausen syndrome' still being the more known term in society.
For the purpose of this article,
FDIS is NOT:
- Munchausen by Proxy: A caregiver inducing illness in a child or someone in their care.
- Malingering: Someone faking an illness for personal gain, such as money or to get out of responsibilities.
- Hypochondria: Someone who genuinely believes they are ill or intensely fears being ill.
These listed conditions are not the same as FDIS, but they may present and be comorbid with FDIS.
Most cases of factitious disorder are life-threatening because people can go as far as inducing symptoms and illnesses.
Faking behaviour can easily manifest into inducing behaviour.
There have been very tragic incidents where people have died as a result of this type of self-harm. Incidents will not be linked here to respect the patients and their families.
Links and Causes of Munchausen Syndrome
Causes of Munchausen/FDIS include:
- Any kind of abuse
- A family member or childhood friend with a serious illness or death
- Being bullied as a child
- Past illness that has gotten better or has been cured
- Frequent hospitalizations during childhood
- Problems with self-esteem
- Personality Disorders
Read More From Youmemindbody
FDIS may branch into two motives depending on their comorbid mental condition. Those who are dominantly comorbid with conditions that include a lack of empathy may get satisfaction, enjoyment or a rush from “tricking” medical professionals and the intelligence they have about their feigned illnesses.
However, those with conditions like Borderline Personality Disorder as their dominant comorbid condition, or those with a history of abuse or neglect, DO NOT gain much, if any, personal satisfaction from deceiving people. Their motive and sense of satisfaction come from the feelings of acceptance and love that they get from being sick and cared for. These are people who may have been deprived of love, kindness and attention in their lives or people who have suffered trauma such as childhood bullying by peers, neglect and/or abuse at home. As a result, these people may crave the safety and structure of being cared for in the hospital, which may contribute to the development of FDIS.
A Life-Long Suffer of FDIS Shares Their Story In This YouTube Video
What Is It Like to Have Munchausen Syndrome?
It is hard to pinpoint a lot of information and explanations about how FDIS personally affects someone, as sufferers are most often incredibly secretive due to the stigmatization and the fear of being shunned. That being said, the best way to understand a condition is to learn about it from those who suffer from it themselves.
For those who were brave enough to share their stories, even anonymously, FDIS can be described a lot as addiction and even OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) due to the compulsive thoughts that come with FDIS.
The thought patterns of someone with FDIS may include:
- Feeling a desperate longing to be sick
- A sense of fear about being healthy
- A chronic increase in severity of self-harm thoughts and ideas
- Feelings of adrenaline and satisfaction after self-harming
- Obsessive thoughts about proving the illness
- The need to “make the lies a truth.”
- Feelings of not being able to stop
- Compulsive thoughts about self-harming
- The perceived illness makes an important part of identity
- Thoughts that life may be boring, meaningless or incomplete without it
- Feelings of emptiness, loneliness and isolation
Potential Treatment Approaches
Since there really is so little known about FDIS from a psychological standpoint, finding the right approach for treatment is tough, and many sufferers out there refuse to undergo treatment for FDIS due to the stigma surrounding this condition. Due to this stigma and lack of knowledge of FDIS, many sufferers of FDIS are shunned by their families, friends and even medical professionals. This means that a diagnosis of FDIS can actually be counter-effective and sometimes even dangerous for the patient.
If somebody diagnosed with FDIS were to have symptoms, induced or not, they are less likely to be taken seriously by medical professionals and their loved ones. As a result, those suffering from FDIS may feel the intense urge to prove their illness by increasing the severity of their symptoms by engaging in self-harm, further putting their health and lives at risk.
That is where it needs to change.
It’s heartbreaking that some people feel so deprived of love that being sick or disabled is the only way they believe they will matter in this world.
I honestly hope everyone who struggles with this condition will get to hear these words:
“you are worthy of love even when you aren’t sick/disabled.”
People with factitious disorder deserve to have a real name for their mindset distortions. They deserve support, encouragement and awareness so that there can be better mental health treatment and knowledge about this disorder.
I believe the most effective treatment is a gentle and understanding approach using Cognitive and Dialectal Behavior Therapy.
FDIS needs to be seen and treated like an addiction and self-harm condition rather than a stigmatized character flaw.
However, every patient is different, and what may work for some may not work for others. This is why there needs to be a greater focus on learning about factitious disorder from a psychological standpoint so that treatment options can be explored and analyzed for the most suitable approach for each patient.
I hope that by sharing this information, I am placing a stepping stone in the direction where people in the future who are suffering from this very serious and misunderstood condition are able to get the real help and support that they need with the best possible therapeutic outcomes.
Another read for more information on FDIS: Munchausen syndrome (factitious disorder imposed on self) (medicalnewstoday.com)
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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