Munchausen syndrome

Munchausen syndrome is a mental health disorder in which a person intentionally produces physical or psychological symptoms of illness. A person with Munchausen syndrome acts from a need to be cared for, which may be in conflict with a distrust of health professionals.

The person may:

  • Claim that he or she has symptoms, when none exist.
  • Produce false test results, such as by sticking a thermometer in hot water to mimic a fever or by putting bacteria or something else in laboratory test samples.
  • Self-inflict injuries, such as cutting the skin.
  • Create symptoms, such as causing vomiting by taking medicine.
  • Say that symptoms are worse than they really are, such as claiming to have severe pain or bleeding when a milder condition is actually present.
  • Request surgical procedures.

Treatment primarily consists of counselling to prevent the affected person from further self-harm and to stop providing unnecessary and potentially harmful medical treatment.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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