Munchausen syndrome
ICD-10 F681
ICD-9 301.51
OMIM [1]
DiseasesDB 8459 33167
MedlinePlus [2]
eMedicine med/3543 emerg/322 emerg/830
MeSH {{{MeshNumber}}}
This article is about the self-inflicted factitious disorder. For the type of abuse commonly known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, see Fabricated or Induced Illness.

Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder in which those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. It is in a class of disorders known as factitious disorders which involve "illnesses" whose symptoms are either self-induced or falsified by the patient. It is also sometimes known as Hospital addiction syndrome.

Munchausen syndrome[edit | edit source]

In Munchausen syndrome, the affected person exaggerates or creates symptoms of illnesses in himself or herself in order to gain investigation, treatment, attention, sympathy, and comfort from medical personnel. The role of "patient" is a familiar and comforting one, and it fills a psychological need in people with Munchausen's. It is distinct from hypochondria in that the patient is aware that he is exaggerating, while sufferers of hypochondria actually believe they have a disease.

There is some controversy on the exact causes of the syndrome, but an increased occurrence has been reported[How to reference and link to summary or text] in healthcare professionals and close family members of people with a chronic illness such as manic depression.

Individuals with the Munchausen pattern of behaviour may be admitted to many hospitals under many medical teams.

Origin of the name[edit | edit source]

The name derives from one Baron Münchhausen (Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen, 1720-1797), to whom were ascribed a series of fantastically impossible tales written by Rudolf Raspe.

In 1951, Sir Richard Asher (father of Jane Asher and Peter Asher) was the first to describe a pattern of self-harm, where individuals fabricated histories, signs, and symptoms of illness. Remembering Baron Munchausen, Asher named this condition Munchausen's Syndrome. Originally, this term was used for all factitious disorders. Now, however, there is considered to be a wide range of factitious disorders, and the diagnosis of "Munchausen syndrome" is reserved for the most severe form, where the simulation of disease is the central activity of the affected person's life.

Comparison to Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII)[edit | edit source]

Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) is the formal name of a type of abuse in which a caregiver feigns or induces an illness in a person under their care, in order to attract attention, sympathy, or to fill other emotional needs. It is aso known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP), due to its similarity to Munchausen syndrome, in which a person feigns or induces illness in themselves for similar emotional reasons. While a person can be said to be "suffering" from Munchausen syndrome, it is incorrect to state that a caretaking person who perpetrates abuse is "suffering" from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Feldman M.D. 2004. Playing Sick? Untangling the Web of Munchausen Syndrome, Munchausen by Proxy, Malingering, and Factitious Disorder. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
  • Fisher, Jill A. 2006. Playing Patient, Playing Doctor: Munchausen Syndrome, Clinical S/M, and Ruptures of Medical Power. Journal of Medical Humanities 27 (3): 135-149.
  • Fisher, Jill A. 2006. Investigating the Barons: Narrative & Nomenclature in Munchausen Syndrome. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 49 (2): 250-262.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Ayoub, C. C. (2006). Munchausen by Proxy. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers/Greenwood Publishing Group.
  • Leamon, M. H., Feldman, M. D., & Scott, C. L. (2003). Factitious Disorders and Malingering. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.

Papers[edit | edit source]

Abed, R. T. (1995). Voluntary false confessions in a Munchausen patient: A new variant of the syndrome? : Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine Vol 12(1) Mar 1995, 24-26.

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  • Fisher, J. A. (2006). Investigating the barons: Narrative and nomenclature in Munchausen syndrome: Perspectives in Biology and Medicine Vol 49(2) Spr 2006, 250-262.
  • Fisher, J. A. (2006). Playing Patient, Playing Doctor: Munchausen Syndrome, Clinical S/M, and Ruptures of Medical Power: Journal of Medical Humanities Vol 27(3) Sep 2006, 135-149.
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