Roleplay Guide 018: Factitious Disorders (Character Guide)
Sure, there are hundreds of guides on Tumblr describing (badly) how to play characters with actual disorders, but have you ever considered a character that is faking one? Or, maybe even faking more than one? In this guide I will describe what factitious disorders are, different types of factitious disorders, and a look inside the mind of people that fake disorders. (Includes helpful links)
First, let’s define what this is. Factitious disorder is a “condition” (or, is also known as it’s own type of mental disorder) where a person acts as if they have a physical or mental illness. This is defined by the person creating the symptoms consciously; deliberately producing, feigning, or exaggerating symptoms. It is an umbrella term that categorizes mental disturbances in which people act physically or mentally ill without obvious benefits and reason.
It is also said that this condition is referred to as “hospital addiction”, or pathomimia. There are a few variations of names given to types of individuals with factitious disorder include “hospital vagrants, hospital hobos, peregrinating patients, problem patients, and professional patients”.
Factitious disorder has three major subtypes:
- Predominantly psychological signs and symptoms - As the description implies, people with this disorder mimic behavior that is typical of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia. They may appear confused, make absurd statements and report hallucinations, the experience of sensing things that are not there; for example, hearing voices. Ganser syndrome, sometimes called “prison psychosis”, is a factitious disorder that was first observed in prisoners. People with Ganser syndrome have short-term episodes of bizarre behavior similar to that shown by people with serious mental illnesses.
- Predominantly physical signs and symptoms - People with this disorder claim to have symptoms related to a physical illness, such as chest pain, stomach problems, fevers, etc.
- Factitious disorder combined psychological and physical signs and symptoms.
You can find out more about these subtypes, here.
SYMPTOMS & WARNING SIGNS
Symptoms in people, whether they may be real or not, should always be taken seriously. For many people with FD, these symptoms can feel very real or be completely made up.
SYMPTOMS & WARNINGS
- Dramatic, inconsistent medical history.
- Unclear symptoms that are not controllable, and that become more severe or change once treatment has begun.
- Predictable relapses following improvement in the condition.
- Extensive knowledge of hospitals and/or medical terminology, as well as the textbook descriptions of illness.
- Presence of many surgical scars.
- Appearance of new or additional symptoms following negative test results.
- Presence of symptoms only when the patient is with others or being observed.
- Willingness or eagerness to have medical tests, operations, or other procedures.
- History of seeking treatment at many hospitals, clinics, and doctors offices, possibly even in different cities.
- Reluctance by the patient to allow health care professionals to meet with or talk to family members, friends, and prior doctors.
- Exaggerations of symptoms in front of others
WHAT CAUSES IT & DIAGNOSIS
What causes factitious disorders is unknown currently, but many suggest that a history of child abuse or frequent illnesses that resulted in hospitalization may have something to do with it. There is also research being done that suggest the romanticization of disorders as a whole (making them appealing) might also contribute to this.
Because of the dishonesty that comes along with this disorder, it is extremely hard to diagnose. Doctors must rule out other physical or mental illnesses, and often go through a variety of diagnosis tests before concluding possible FD. Psychiatrists and psychologists use thorough history, physical, laboratory tests, imagery, and psychological testing to evaluate a person
WHY DO PEOPLE FAKE ILLNESSES?
It is said that people fake illnesses to gain sympathy. It is also said that these types of people enjoy the consistent stream of positive attention that being sick can give them, especially if they do not get it any other way. That being said, there can be a multitude of reasons why someone fakes an illness; money being one of the most prominent ones (gifts, etc.), or they actually do have an illness (FD). Just not the one they’re pretending to have.
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