The essential feature of Factitious Disorder is the intentional production of physical or psychological signs or symptoms (Criterion A). The presentation may include fabrication of subjective complaints (e.g., complaints of acute abdominal pain in the absence of any such pain), falsification of objective signs (e.g., manipulating a thermometer to create the illusion of fever), self-inflicted conditions (e.g., the production of abscesses by injection of saliva into the skin), exaggeration or exacerbation of preexisting general medical conditions (e.g., feigning of a grand mal seizure by an individual with a previous history of seizure disorder), or any combination or variation of these. The motivation for the behavior is to assume the sick role (Criterion B). External incentives for the behavior (e.g., economic gain, avoiding legal responsibility, or improving physical well-being, as in Malingering) are absent (Criterion C).
Individuals with Factitious Disorder usually present their history with dramatic flair, but are extremely vague and inconsistent when questioned in greater detail. They may engage in pathological lying, in a manner that is intriguing to the listener, about any aspect of their history or symptoms (i.e., pseudologia fantastica). They often have extensive knowledge of medical terminology and hospital routines. Complaints of pain and requests for analgesics are very common. After an extensive workup of their initial chief complaints has proved negative, they often complain of other physical or psychological problems and produce more factitious symptoms. Individuals with this disorder may eagerly undergo multiple invasive procedures and operations. While in the hospital, they usually have few visitors. Eventually, a point may be reached at which the factitious nature of the individual’s symptoms is revealed (e.g., the person is recognized by someone who encountered the patient during a previous admission; other hospitals confirm multiple prior hospitalizations for factitious symptomatology). When confronted with evidence that their symptoms are factitious, individuals with this disorder usually deny the allegations or rapidly discharge themselves against medical advice. Sometimes, they will be admitted to another hospital soon after. Their repeated hospitalizations may take them to numerous cities, states, and countries.