Doctors don't know exactly what causes Munchausen syndrome, but some theories suggest that individuals with the disorder may have been victims of abuse or neglect as children or experienced frequent hospitalizations in childhood, according to WebMD. As of 2015, researchers are studying whether or not Munchausen syndrome is linked to personality disorders, which are common in patients with the condition.
Doctors believe that Munchausen syndrome is a rare disorder, WebMD explains. Statistics are difficult to gather because individuals with the disorder tend to visit multiple medical facilities. Another problem is that dishonesty is a part of the condition, so any data collected may not be accurate.
Munchausen syndrome is more common in males than in females. Young adults are affected most often. Children sometimes can develop the condition.
People with Munchausen syndrome repeatedly and deliberately act as if they have an illness when they do not, WebMD states. Doctors consider it to be a mental illness because patients experience severe emotional difficulties.
Symptoms include an eagerness to have medical procedures, an inconsistent medical history, extensive medical knowledge, and a history of treatment at multiple health care facilities, WebMD says. Medical professionals may notice that the individual always has relapses after he begins to get better or that the symptoms only occur while someone is watching.