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Mindset of sickness

Mindset of sickness

While most people will abhor being sick or getting the label of a disease, some others would feign ailments for getting a pecuniary benefit or just to fake  the “sick role” to have people care for them and be the centre of attention. Most of us are familiar with malingerers, who will willfully lie to feign an ailment to get sick-leave or get compensation or reimbursement. We are also familiar with hypochondriacs who are nervous individuals with plenty of symptoms and complaints and make a mountain out of mole hill.   They are not liars. These persons will go for over-investigations and over treatment. They are victims of medicalization i e they will indulge in overuse/abuse of medical system and medicines and project every event or symptom as a medical problem. We have the third category who will try to convince everyone known to them about their serious ailment like cancer or heart attack or  blindness and go to any extent to prove themselves right. They have a mindset of sickness. They are not nervous or live in fear. They get vicarious gratification in getting a sick role by hook or by crook, just for the sake of attention seeking and proving them right. In the process they can get hazardous interventions and are not afraid of even death in the bargain. They are mentally sick with a condition called Munchausen syndrome. It is a condition in which the person intentionally fakes, simulates, worsens, or self-induces an injury or illness for the main purpose of being treated like a medical patient for gaining attention. Such people go to incredible lengths to fake illness or psychological/ physical trauma for the purpose of attracting medical attention and sympathy from others. Such sufferers don’t just shave their heads and say, “Look! It’s cancer!” They alter medical records, starve themselves, install catheters and chemo ports, and even convince doctors to perform surgeries— anything to legitimize the fantasy of their illness. If they fail in one effort, they are likely to try another hospital or illness or audience.

With the advent of internet it has become easier for these mentally sick people to convince the social media contacts and others, about their feigned ailment

 

What then is this condition?

It is also known as hospital addiction syndrome, thick chart syndrome, or hospital hopper syndrome. They have a history of recurrent hospitalization, travelling, and dramatic, extremely improbable tales of their past experiences. The condition derives its name from the fictional character Baron Munchausen.The affected person exaggerates or creates symptoms of illnesses in themselves to gain examination, treatment, attention, sympathy, and/or comfort from medical personnel. In some extreme cases, people suffering from Munchausen’s syndrome are highly knowledgeable about the practice of medicine and are able to produce symptoms that result in lengthy and costly medical analysis, prolonged hospital stay and unnecessary operations. This disorder is distinct from hypochondriasis and other disorders in that those with the latter do not intentionally produce their somatic symptoms. They do not fabricate symptoms for material gain such as financial compensation, absence from work, or access to drugs.

What may cause this condition?

Some of the factors could be: childhood traumas, growing up with parents/caretakers who were emotionally unavailable due to illness or emotional problems, a serious illness as a child, failed aspirations to work in the medical field, personality disorders, and a low self-esteem. It is more common in men and seen in young or middle-aged adults. Those with a history of working in healthcare are at greater risk of developing it. They are compulsive liars, but not looking for any kind of selfish benefit.

What the doctors may do?

Because there is uncertainty in treating suspected Munchausen patients, it is advocated that medical professionals or doctors first explicitly rule out the possibility that the patient has an early stage disease in order to avoid under-treating real illness.  Then they may take a careful patient history and seek medical records, to look for early deprivation, childhood abuse, or mental illness.  If a patient is at risk to himself or herself, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization may be required. Therapeutic and medical treatment may center on the underlying psychiatric disorder: a mood disorder, an anxiety disorder, or borderline personality disorder. Patients may have multiple scars on abdomen due to repeated “emergency” operations. There is a history of frequent hospitalizations, knowledge of several illnesses, frequently requesting medication such as pain killers, openness to extensive surgery, welcome to visitors during hospitalizations, exaggerated or fabricated stories about several medical problems, etc. Such patients might inflict harm on themselves such as taking laxatives or blood thinners, ingesting or injecting themselves with bacteria, cutting or burning themselves, and disrupting their healing process such as reopening wounds.[ Severe health problems, serious injuries, loss of limbs or organs, and even death are possible complications. Although a person with Munchausen syndrome actively seeks treatment for the various disorders he or she invents, the person often is unwilling to admit to and seek treatment for the syndrome itself.

When treatment is sought, the first goal is to modify the person’s behavior and reduce his or her misuse or overuse of medical resources. Another key goal is to help patients avoid dangerous and unnecessary medical diagnostic or treatment procedures (such as surgeries), often sought from different doctors who may be unaware that physical symptoms are either being faked or self-inflicted. Recovery is dependent on a doctor or loved one identifying or suspecting the condition in the person and encouraging them to receive proper medical care for their disorder and sticking with it. In most of these patients the disorder is a chronic, or long-term, condition that can be very difficult to treat.

 

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