Despite cases of factitious disorder imposed on self being documented in the literature for decades, it appears to remain an under-identified and under-diagnosed problem. The present study aimed to explore factitious disorder imposed on self in a series of French patients.
Patients 18 years old and over with factitious disorder imposed on self were retrospectively included by two independent reviewers according to DSM-5 criteria in Rennes University Hospital for the period 1995 to 2019. Patients were identified from a clinical data warehouse.
49 patients with factitious disorder imposed on self were included. Among them, 36 (73.5%) were female. The average age at diagnosis was 38.4 years. The 16 patients with a health-related profession were all female. Direct evidence of falsification was found in 20.4% of cases. Falsification was mainly diagnosed on the basis of indirect arguments: history of factitious disorder diagnosed in another hospital (12.2%), extensive use of healthcare services (22.4%), investigations that were normal or inconclusive (69.4%), inconsistent or incomplete anamnesis and/or patient refusal to allow access to outside information sources (20.4%), atypical presentation (59.2%), evocative patient behaviour or comments (32.7%), and/or treatment failure (28.6%). Dermatology and neurology were the most frequently involved specialities (24.5%). Nine patients were hospitalized in intensive care. Some of them received invasive treatments, such as intubations, because of problems that were only reported or feigned. The diagnosis of factitious disorder imposed on self was discussed with the patient in 28 cases (57.1%). None of them admitted to making up the disorder intentionally. Two suicide attempts occurred within 3 months after the discussion of the diagnosis. No deaths were recorded. 44.9% of the patients returned to the same hospital at least once in relation to factitious disorder imposed on self.
The present study reinforces data in favour of a predominance of females among patients with factitious disorder imposed on self. This diagnosis is difficult and is based on a range of arguments. While induced cases can be of low severity, cases that are only feigned can lead to extreme medical interventions, such as intubation.