Munchausen syndrome is a serious mental disorder in which someone pretends to be sick or deliberately causes illness or injury in order to fulfill deep emotional needs. People with Munchausen syndrome may make up symptoms, push for risky operations, or try to rig laboratory test results in their effort to win sympathy and concern. Today, the Internet provides a way for people with Munchausen syndrome to garner sympathy from around the world.
Munchausen syndrome is a type of condition broadly known as factitious disorder. Factitious means false or artificial, and indeed, these disorders are either made up or self-inflicted. Factitious disorders can be psychological or physical. Munchausen syndrome refers to the most severe and chronic physical form of factitious disorder.
Munchausen syndrome was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German officer who greatly embellished the stories of his life. Although it has been around for centuries, Munchausen syndrome remains mysterious and difficult to treat. The key to successful treatment is understanding the underlying psychological factors.