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Hi idislikesean - It sounds like you've been bothered by this for quite some time and have given the situation a lot of thought.

The only person who can truly know why a person behaves a certain way is that individual - the rest of us can only guess and educate ourselves on what may be going on. If members of the family feel that the problems have escalated to the point that outside help is needed then it would be advisable to first get some professional help from a mental health counselor to learn how to best approach the problem with him in a supportive manner that could lead to behavioral change.

Only a medical professional who has the ability to do a proper diagnostic workup could tell you if he has an illness. To answer your question though, yes, there are disorders related to faking illness. These are called factitious disorders.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, factitious disorders are mental disorders in which a person acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when, in fact, he or she has consciously created his or her symptoms. (The name factitious comes from the Latin word for "artificial.")

People with factitious disorders deliberately create or exaggerate symptoms of an illness in several ways. They may lie about or mimic symptoms, hurt themselves to bring on symptoms, or alter diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample). People with factitious disorders have an inner need to be seen as ill or injured, but not to achieve a concrete benefit, such as a financial gain. People with factitious disorders are even willing to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to obtain the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill.

Factitious disorders are considered mental illnesses because they are associated with severe emotional difficulties. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), which is the standard reference book for recognized mental illnesses in the United States, organizes factitious disorders into four main types:

Factitious disorder with mostly psychological symptoms — As the description implies, people with this disorder mimic behavior that is typical of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia. They may appear confused, make absurd statements, and report hallucinations (the experience of sensing things that are not there; for example, hearing voices). Ganser syndrome, sometimes called prison psychosis, is a factitious disorder that was first observed in prisoners. People with Ganser syndrome have short-term episodes of bizarre behavior that appear similar to serious mental illnesses.

Factitious disorder with mostly physical symptoms — People with this disorder claim to have symptoms related to a physical illness--symptoms such as chest pain, stomach problems, or fever. This disorder is sometimes referred to as Munchausen syndrome, named for Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German officer who was known for embellishing the stories of his life and experiences. NOTE: Although Munchausen syndrome most properly refers to a factitious disorder with physical symptoms, the term is sometimes used to refer to factitious disorders in general.

Factitious disorder with both psychological and physical symptoms — People with this disorder report symptoms of both physical and mental illness.

Factitious disorder not otherwise specified — This type includes a disorder called factitious disorder by proxy (also called Munchausen syndrome by proxy). People with this disorder produce or fabricate symptoms of illness in another person under their care. It most often occurs in mothers (although it can occur in fathers) who intentionally harm their children in order to receive attention. (The term "by proxy" means "through a substitute.")

You can find more information here: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Factitious_Disorders/hic_An_Overview_of_Factitious_Disorders.aspx

Will you let us know what you decide to do? We wish you all the best. Pat

April 28, 2010 - 5:58pm


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