Psychological Aspects of Factitious Disorder

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Factitious disorder can present in multiple health care settings, with patients intentionally producing symptoms to assume the sick role. This assumption of the sick role can result in multiple hospitalizations with unnecessary diagnostic workup, as well as invasive diagnostic procedures that can lead to worrisome side effects. Differential diagnoses that should be ruled out include malingering, somatic symptom disorder, and anxiety disorders. For many providers, patients with factitious disorder can be a challenge to treat because the etiology of the disorder remains unclear. There are multiple psychological theories that attempt to explain the motivation and thought process behind the voluntary production of symptoms. Some of these theories have addressed disruptive attachments during childhood, possible intergenerational transfer of the disorder, personal identity conflicts, somatic illness as a form of masochistic activity toward oneself, and intrapsychic conflicts. Confrontation and psychotherapy with a multidisciplinary team has been proposed as a form of treatment. An understanding of the psychological factors associated with factitious disorder can help providers understand the rationale behind the patient’s presentation and aid in the formulation of a treatment plan.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2018;20(1):17nr02229