Munchausen Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 3/20/2020

Munchausen syndrome is a so-called factitious disorder. It refers to a mental disorder in which the affected person repeatedly and deliberately acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick.

People with Munchausen syndrome typically have a dramatic but inconsistent medical history, problems with identity and self-esteem, unclear symptoms that may become more severe or change once treatment has begun, predictable relapses following improvement and extensive knowledge of hospitals and/or medical terminology. Other symptoms can include

  • knowing textbook descriptions of illnesses,
  • the presence of multiple surgical scars,
  • the appearance of new or additional symptoms following negative test results, the presence of symptoms only when the patient is with others or being observed,
  • a willingness or eagerness to have medical tests, and
  • a history of seeking treatment at numerous hospitals, clinics, and doctors' offices.

Cause of Munchausen syndrome

Doctors do not understand the exact cause of Munchausen syndrome, but it is often associated with severe emotional difficulties and other mental illnesses.

Other munchausen syndrome symptoms and signs

  • A History of Seeking Treatment at Numerous Hospitals, Clinics, and Doctors' Offices
  • A Willingness or Eagerness to Have Medical Tests
  • Knowing Textbook Descriptions of Illnesses
  • The Appearance of New or Additional Symptoms Following Negative Test Results
  • The Presence of Multiple Surgical Scars
  • The Presence of Symptoms Only When the Patient Is With Others or Being Observed


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.