Patients with factitious disorders artificially generate, aggravate or feign injuries or illnesses, which can result in severe physical impairment and misuse of the healthcare system. The symptomatology is characterized by a protracted course of disease with frequent changes of practitioners and multiple invasive procedures due to anomalous, mostly chronic findings. Elaborate clinical presentations, lack of knowledge of disease characteristics and the fast-paced everyday clinical practice can lead to maintaining the disease through non-recognition or mistreatment.
Based on selective literature research and clinical case reports from a university clinic for plastic surgery, this article provides a review about common features of factitious disorders as well as treatment strategies.
If a factitious disorder is suspected, invasive treatments should be restricted and psychosomatic or psychiatric expertise obtained. Within an empathic physician-patient relation and with psychotherapeutic support, patients can be gradually introduced to the diagnosis and therapy options and treatment terminations could be avoided.
Knowledge of indicators for factitious disorders, which may become evident in medical history, findings and illness-affirming behaviour, is key to identify affected patients and initiate appropriate treatment. For this purpose, factitious disorders should be included in differential diagnostic considerations even in primarily somatic medical specialties. Since the diagnosis is often based on evidence and complicated by withheld information or medical confidentiality, the establishment of a central reporting register could facilitate the diagnostic process and improve therapy in the future.

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