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Munchausen’s Syndrome and Substance Abuse Issues

Most people have probably heard about Munchausen’s syndrome. It has been used in the plots of popular television shows, been reported on in the news, and there are even a number of celebrities that have been diagnosed with it. What may not be known is the relationship between Munchausen’s and substance abuse.

What is Munchausen’s Syndrome?

Munchausen’s syndrome is the most extreme form of factitious disorder. According to the National Library of Medicine, factitious disorder is marked by persons faking or creating symptoms of injury or illness in order to get medical treatment.

People with Munchausen’s syndrome take this practice so far as to actually abuse substances in order to make themselves sick, or injure themselves. These extreme acts of self-harm are what set Munchausen’s apart from other aspects of the factitious disorder.

Signs of Munchausen’s Syndrome

Munchausen's Syndrome

Someone with Munchausen’s syndrome may abuse substances in order to make themselves sick.

While factitious disorder and Munchausen’s are difficult to spot, there are a number of things that people can look for that may indicate someone suffering from these mental disorders. Some signs of Munchausen’s syndrome include:

  • unusual symptoms compared to medical history
  • frequent visits to multiple doctors and hospitals
  • incomplete medical records
  • unusual knowledge of medical terminology and conditions
  • aggressive insistence on medical treatment
  • improbable stories of past medical experiences or conditions
  • evidence of frequent surgeries and injuries
  • changing symptoms or symptoms that only occur when a medical professional is present

While these signs of Munchausen’s may seem extreme, the lengths that people with it will go to in order to make themselves sick, including substance abuse, are even more so. If you need treatment for substance abuse and Munchausen’s, call us at 800-683-3270. We can help.

Munchausen’s and Addiction

One of the most common ways that people with Munchausen’s syndrome get the medical treatment they desire, is by abusing addictive substances. They do this for two reasons. The first reason is to simulate symptoms of another disease. An example of this is someone taking cocaine or prescription stimulants in order to cause cardiac distress.

The other reason is addiction itself. Someone with Munchausen’s is not above purposely becoming addicted in order to receive medical treatment. There is also the very real possibility of someone with this disorder becoming addicted to prescription medications, such as narcotic painkillers, as a result of their unnecessary medical treatment. This creates a need for addiction treatment in people with Munchausen’s.

Dual Diagnosis and the Importance of Treating Co-existing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders

Addiction Treatment for a Person with Munchausen’s

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse illustrates the need for comprehensive treatment that considers and addresses both disorders. Even though the connection between mental illness and substance abuse has been known, and well documented, for over a century, it is only in recent years that this connection has begun to be considered in treatment.

Today, there are integrated treatment protocols that are designed to treat substance abuse and related mental disorders, such as Munchausen’s syndrome, at the same time. This combination of treatment reduces relapse and symptoms of the mental disorder far more effectively. If you have Munchausen’s syndrome and a substance problem, call us at 800-683-3270, and get help today.

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