Factitious Disorders

Psychological Implications in Morgellons Disease, Part II: Factitious Disorders

Sarah Bione-Dunn

In Sickened, a memoir of Münchhausen syndrome by proxy by Julie Gregory, Dr. Marc Feldman writes: “Münchhausen by proxy may be the single most complex– and lethal– form of maltreatment known today. It is formally defined as the falsification or induction of physical and/or emotional illness by a caretaker of a dependent person. In most cases, the perpetrator is a mother and the victim is her own child.”

Factitious disorders such as Münchhausen syndrome (MS) and Münchhausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) may be factors for some cases of Morgellons disease. Symptoms of factitious disorders include intentional production or feigning of physical signs or symptoms, and physical symptoms motivated by a desire to assume the sick role (DSM-IV-TR). Depression, need for a sense of community, and unsupportive parental relationships are suggested causes of MS/MSBP, though the precise cause of factitious disorders are not understood (Ozden & Canat, 1999).

Many Morgellons sufferers and MS/MSBP sufferers have behaviors in common. MS/MSBP sufferers research their supposed ailments and are knowledgeable about medicine (Miner & Feldman, 1998). People with MS/MSBP eagerly undergo or offer to partake in painful testing or treatment (Stern & Cremens, 1998), as do Morgellons sufferers. Both conditions continually reject known explanations for their health; Morgellons sufferers notably reject diagnoses such as eczema, environmental factors, poor nutrition, side effects from medication, side effects from illegal substances, etc. as the agents of their illness. The two conditions also share negative attitudes toward the medical community, strong aversion to mental health, and doctor-shopping behaviors for someone to find something– anything– wrong with them.

Communication on an internet message board is indirect and impersonal. Lymebuster’s policy of banning anyone who questions another’s health, symptoms, or motivations, makes it a dangerous breeding ground for the few who suffer from MS/MSBP. Having MS/MSBP may not have been why they began to seek Morgellons as a new disease to fabricate, but because of the isolated, “no one allowed who doesn’t agree” attitude, it is a safe haven for people to continue in their deviance. MS/MSBP sufferers and perpetrators can then join the media pressure and participate in a “mysterious, emerging disease” to satisfy their psychological issues, as they already feel on the fringe from their continual rejection by physicians.