14 Ways To Tell If Someone is Suicidal
How to Tell if Someone Is Pretending to Have an Illness
Sometimes people pretend that they have either a mental or physical illness when they don't have either. This is usually done for attention, or to enable them to get out of doing something. While it may not be malicious in intent, it is a form of manipulating and lying and it can really hurt other people who go out of their way to take care of this person, or it can stifle the development or opportunities for the person faking it. Whatever the case, being able to spot the pretense can provide a good opener for helping this person to find more constructive ways to deal with the underlying issues.
Keeping a Fair Attitude
Recognize that undiagnosed illnesses are still illnesses.Sometimes, people may have an issue that they don't have a name for, and that doctors can't label yet. This can be a confusing and frustrating process for the patient, but they are likely to eventually find an accurate diagnosis and stop needing to search for a diagnosis.
Recognize that a string of diagnoses doesn't always mean that someone is faking it.Sometimes, people get misdiagnosed, or only diagnosed for one condition when they actually have several of them. It may take a while for a person to settle on the right one(s).
Remember that other people's experiences may be different from yours.People can experience things that you've never heard of, and they can experience things that you've had much more severely than you did. Don't assume that someone is faking just because you don't understand what they are going through.
- For example, if you have never had severe menstrual cramps, that doesn't mean that cramps can't ever be severe. One person may only experience mild cramps, while another person might experience pain and exhaustion so serious that they cannot function at work or school.
Get rid of any judgments or stereotypes you might hold.People with various illnesses can be diverse. Someone doesn't have to fit the stereotype of an illness in order to have it.
- Mental illnesses and disabilities are just as real and serious as physical ones.
- Just because you haven't personally witnessed someone's symptoms (especially invisible symptoms) doesn't mean that the symptoms aren't there.
- Someone can look fine on the outside and be suffering on the inside. This can happen especially with mental illnesses.
- People with chronic conditions can have "good days" and "bad days." During a flare-up, their symptoms can be worse. Just because their symptoms are less severe on some days doesn't mean it's fake.
- Not all people with an illness or disability meet the stereotype. For example, people with depression may feel happy from time to time, and people who use wheelchairs might be capable of standing or walking very short distances.
Evaluate whether you have any ulterior motives.Why do you want to accuse this person of faking an illness? Is it possible that you are trying to harm their reputation? Be honest with yourself. Make sure that you're looking into this for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.
- Are you looking for something to accuse this person of, because you don't like them?
- Are you jealous of the attention they are getting?
Recognize that it can be serious to accuse someone of faking an illness.This accusation may break relationships, sometimes irreparably. Be certain before you make any serious accusations.
- If you accuse someone of faking, when they are actually suffering, this may change people's opinions of you.
Consider whether the person displays symptoms when they are alone (or think they are alone).If someone is faking an illness, then they no longer need to keep up the pretense when they think no one is watching. You may notice that they miraculously become "okay" when they are alone.
- Keep in mind that people may experience fewer symptoms while resting. For example, someone who is in pain might experience less pain if they hold the injured area still and keep their mind occupied on something else (like a TV show).
Consider whether they seem to be enjoying their symptoms and the care they receive.While a sick person may appreciate others' kindness, their goal is to get better and stop relying on other people. Their illness can cause frustration, sadness, or general distress to them.
Consider how they react to the idea of medicine and treatment.Someone who is feeling bad is likely to accept over-the-counter medicine, because they want to feel better. Someone who is faking it is likely to refuse it, because they don't actually need it.
Notice how they react to the idea of seeing a doctor.A sick person may agree out of the desire to get better, or prefer to wait it out a little longer to see if it goes away, but will rarely have an extreme reaction like eagerness or emphatic denial. Someone who has a very strong reaction may be faking their sickness.
- Someone faking illness to avoid or gain something may want to avoid seeing a doctor, who might figure out that they are lying. They may adamantly not want to see a doctor, and start "getting better" quickly after you mention it.
- People who enjoy playing sick may be eager to see a doctor, because they enjoy playing the role of a patient.
Notice how comfortable the person is in a medical setting.Most people feel a little nervous in a doctor's office or hospital. A person who is faking it, however, may be especially relaxed and happy to be there.
- Keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to medical treatment. Some people are less nervous, and may just be tired or relieved to finally be getting help.
- Someone who enjoys being a patient may have a lot of medical knowledge, potentially surprising doctors and nurses with how much they know.
Examine why a person seems relieved about getting treatment.A sick person may feel relieved about getting a diagnosis and getting treatment, because they want to feel better. A person who is faking it may be relieved because their lie is being believed, or because they are falling into the "patient" role that they enjoy.
Consider non-serious causes of faking an illness.Sometimes people, especially children, fake an illness to get out of school or work, or to receive attention. This may be a one-time or occasional issue.
Look out for malingering.A person who malingers is hoping to gain something, such as money, from faking illness.
Recognize factitious disorder (formerly known as Munchausen syndrome).People with factitious disorder are looking for attention and care, and believe that faking sick is the only way to get it. They enjoy playing the role of a patient and getting medical treatments.
- They may say that their symptoms have gotten worse after they receive treatment.
- They may come up with a new illness after the last one has been treated.
- They may try to tamper with test results or make themselves sick.
- They may have a lot of medical knowledge that they use to fake various disorders.
Consider disorders that don't involve faking sick.Some people genuinely feel ill for unusual or mysterious reasons. They are often frustrated and distressed by their symptoms, and they can't control them. Disorders that could be mistaken for "faking sick" include:
- Illness anxiety disorder (IAD),formerly known as hypochondria, is when a person obsessively worries over their health. They may fear that normal aches and pains are serious health problems. This is not done on purpose, and treatment for anxiety can help reduce symptoms.
- Conversion disorderis when excessive stress manifests itself as health problems (tremors, weakness, numbness, trouble walking, etc.) and is not controlled by the person. This can be caused by tackling the root cause: chronic or severe stress.
- Ordinary mental illnessessuch as depression, anxiety, and OCD can cause physical symptoms like stomachaches or fatigue. A mental health screening may be able to identify the problem so that the person can receive appropriate treatment.
- Rare or undiagnosed illnessescan cause mystery symptoms until a person gets appropriate help.
Be gentle, but firm with an attention-seeking child.If you suspect that a child is doing this because they feel ignored, address the problem. Tell them that it's not okay to lie, and then invite them to seek attention in a more constructive manner.
- For example, "Joey, lying about how you're doing is not okay. If you want my attention, then you can tell me that you're lonely or invite me to hang out with you. Is that what you want? If so, you can ask me to hang out."
- Be sure to listen and provide a more effective way to get attention, or the child may learn that faking sick is the only reliable way to get your attention.
Talk to a child who is trying to skip school.Children who are doing well rarely lie in order to skip school. Ask them why they are faking sick, and what it is at school that they are afraid of. They may be trying to avoid something that scares them. Your child may be suffering from...
- Too much or too difficult schoolwork
- A mean teacher
- An anxiety disorder
- An undiagnosed disability that makes school very hard (e.g. a child with dyscalculia fearing math or a child with asthma hating gym class)
Set boundaries with an adult who makes a habit of faking sick.It can be exhausting to deal with someone who constantly seeks attention in a negative manner. You don't have to engage, and it's okay to politely change the subject or leave the conversation.
QuestionWhenever someone in my family is sick or injured my aunt pretends that she has something worse. Why?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerShe probably wants the attention on her.Thanks!
QuestionI've just met this girl, who is super nice. I was talking about finding it hard to get to sleep because of worrying. She said I might have anxiety, but she is just a teen like me. Could I?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's possible. You're right, you're both young, and she probably doesn't even know you well enough to "diagnose" you, but she's right that having trouble sleeping is a symptom of anxiety. Bring this up with your parents and ask them to take you to the doctor. Your doctor might want to prescribe something to take the edge off so you can sleep better.Thanks!
QuestionMy friend said that she had anxiety, then depression, and now she thinks she has bipolar disorder. Is she faking or not?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPossibly, but it's also possible that your friend is still trying to figure out exactly what's causing her symptoms. The process of diagnosing a psychiatric illness is long and complicated, often taking several years with several wrong diagnoses along the way. Try not to judge your friend right now -- instead, focus on supporting her. Start by offering to help her find the right therapist.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is Munchausen Syndrome?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMunchausen Syndrome is a type of mental illness in which a person repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental disorder when, in truth, he or she has caused the symptoms.Thanks!
- Support your friend. Offer them reassurance and tell them that you are always available to talk.
- Read up about the illness they describe.
- Recognize that people with disabilities that impact communication, such as autism, may have difficulty understanding and describing their symptoms. Take them seriously if they try to tell you that something is wrong.
- Don't act angry, suspicious, or condescending towards the person. It will only make things worse.
- Just because their symptoms don't quite match, it doesn't mean the person doesn't have the illness. They may just be hiding their symptoms or shielding you from the worst of it because they don't want you to see them suffering.
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