Factitious disorder is a serious mental disorder in which someone deceives others by appearing sick, by purposely getting sick, or by self-injury. Factitious disorder symptoms can range from mild (slight exaggeration of symptoms) to severe (previously called Munchausen syndrome). The person may make up symptoms or even tamper with medical tests to convince others that treatment, such as high-risk surgery, is needed.
A factitious disorder is not the same as inventing medical problems for practical benefit, such as getting out of work or winning a lawsuit. Although people with factitious disorder know they are causing their symptoms or illness, they may not understand the reasons for their behavior.
Factitious disorder is mysterious and hard to treat. However, medical and psychological help are critical for preventing serious injury and even death caused by the self-harm typical of this disorder.