Skip to main content

We use strictly necessary cookies to make our site work. We would also like to set optional cookies (analytical, functional and YouTube) to enhance and improve our service. You can opt-out of these cookies. By clicking “Accept All Cookies” you can agree to the use of all cookies.

Cookies Statement and Privacy Statement

Stay at home – level 5 restrictions are in place nationwide. Get the latest advice about COVID-19

Munchausen's syndrome

Munchausen's syndrome is when a person pretends to be ill or self-harms to:

  • make an illness worse
  • bring on an illness

There are 4 main ways people with Munchausen's syndrome fake or induce illnesses.

Lying about symptoms

Choosing symptoms that are difficult to disprove. This can include having a severe headache, pretending to have a seizure or to pass out.

Tampering with test results

Heating a thermometer to suggest a fever or adding blood to a urine sample.


Cutting or burning themselves, self-poisoning, or eating food contaminated with bacteria.

Aggravating pre-existing conditions

Rubbing poo into a wound to cause an infection or reopening healed wounds.

Signs of Munchausen's syndrome

Signs that a person may have Munchausen's syndrome include:

  • making frequent visits to hospitals in different areas
  • claiming to have a history of complex and serious medical conditions
  • having symptoms that don't match with test results
  • having symptoms that get worse for no clear reason
  • having very good medical knowledge
  • being willing to undergo often painful or dangerous tests and procedures
  • reporting symptoms that are vague and inconsistent
  • telling unbelievable and often very elaborate stories about their past

Munchausen's by internet

Munchausen's by internet is a new phenomenon. It is where a person joins an internet support group for people with a serious health condition. They then claim to have the illness themselves.

These actions can have a negative impact on support groups and online communities.

Hypochondria and malingering

Munchausen's syndrome is different than hypochondria (health anxiety) or malingering.

Hypochondria is a psychiatric disorder where a person has a fear of illness. They interpret normal body functions as signs of major illness.

Malingering is faking illness to gain a material benefit. For example, to avoid military duty or get compensation.

Related topic


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE.

page last reviewed: 21/03/2019
next review due: 21/03/2022

Do you need to talk to someone right now?

Free call Samaritans 116 123