What Is Munchausen Syndrome? It's Going to Cause a Stir on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
This term is going to take the questions surrounding Yolanda Foster's health to a whole new level on #RHOBH.
Yolanda Foster's chronic Lyme disease has been a major topic of conversation this season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Lisa Vanderpump questioned Yolanda's condition during the Season 6 premiere, Lisa Rinna and Eileen Davidson saw the status of Yolanda's health firsthand during a visit to her condo, and even RHOBH alum Taylor Armstrong had some thoughts about what's really going on with Yolanda's illness at Ken Todd's birthday lunch during last week's episode of the show.
However, it looks like things are about to take a turn during the next episode of RHOBH when Lisa R. brings up Munhausen syndrome to Kyle Richards and Lisa V., as we saw in the teaser. We see Lisa R. read a definition of Munchausen from her phone, saying "those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves." In the clip above, Lisa R. even admits that she once questioned the legitimacy of Yolanda's Lyme disease saying, "Is this real?"
We'll have to wait and see if word eventually gets back to Yolanda that her RHOBH castmates were discussing the possibility of her suffering from something other than Lyme disease. Just as the RHOBH ladies seemed a bit fuzzy on what Munchausen syndrome is all about, it's not exactly a household phrase that many people understand. However, it's important to know what the condition is all about and the severity of a true diagnosis of it.
British doctor Richard Alan John Asher coined the term "Munchausen syndrome" in 1951. The name comes from Baron Munchausen, a fictional 18th-century German nobleman made famous by Rudolf Erich Raspe's book The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen and was known for spinning tall tales.
However, Munchausen syndrome, which is known as a factitious disorder imposed on self these days, is a very real mental disorder in which someone makes others believe he or she is sick by pretending to be ill, by purposely getting sick, or through self-injury, according to the Mayo Clinic. Someone with a factitious disorder may exhibit a whole host of symptoms, including frequently visits to the hospital, wanting to be tested often or receive potentially dangerous operations, or making frequent requests for pain relievers or other medications.
A factitious disorder differs from hypochondria, which is an illness anxiety disorder in which people actually believe they are becoming ill, even if they don't have any physical symptoms. It's also not to be confused with malingering, which is a term used to describe when someone fakes illness for a benefit, such as for financial gain, i.e. collecting insurance money, or to avoid criminal prosecution, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
In order to keep up the appearance of having an illness, someone with a factitious disorder may exaggerate or fake symptoms, harm themselves, or tamper with medical instruments or tests to manipulate the results of an examination, according to the Mayo Clinic. Of course, this can be harmful in that someone feigning an illness could potentially make him or herself actually sick, which could even lead to death.
But as you can see, a factitious disorder can be very difficult to diagnose. Someone suffering from a factitious disorder may not even know why they act the way they do. It's unclear what exactly causes a factitious disorder, but experiencing childhood trauma, suffering from an illness as a kid, or a desire to work in a healthcare profession may increase the risk of developing it.
Once a diagnosis of a factitious disorder is made, treatment may include seeking help from a mental health professional to perform psychotherapy, behavior counseling, and possibly family therapy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Medications may also be used to treat other mental disorders present in the patient, and temporary psychiatric hospitalization may also be an option, if necessary.
As Kyle was in the clip above, you may even be more familiar with the condition Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a form of abuse that occurs when a caregiver either makes up symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like a child is sick, according to the National Institutes of Health's MedlinePlus. The symptoms of what is now referred to as a factitious disorder imposed on another are similar to those described above, except in this case, you have someone doing things like manipulating medical tests, withholding food, or providing drugs to make someone else appear or actually be sick. Unfortunately, when we hear about factitious disorders in, say, the news, they're usually of those imposed on another. They can have tragic outcomes, resulting in the death of a child, for instance, as was the case in the high-profile murder trial of Lacey Spears, a mother who was convicted earlier this year for fatally poisoning her five-year-old son with salt in his hospital feeding tube.
The digital age has even given rise to what leading Munchausen researcher Marc Feldman has called "Munchausen by Internet" in which the disorder has an online element, such as blogging about an illness that doesn't actually exist, as described by Slate. However, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not currently recognize any influence of the Internet in its description of the factitious disorder imposed on self and the factitious disorder imposed on another.
Even though the word "Munchausen" will be thrown around on RHOBH, cast members such as Lisa V. and Kyle have since come out in support of Yolanda, reaffirming their belief that she does, in fact, have Lyme disease. However, you can't throw out a term like that and not expect it to ruffle some feathers. But just how ruffled this situation gets is just something we're going to have to watch RHOBH to find out.
Until then, you can tide yourself over now by seeing what else you can expect from the next all-new episode in the clip, below.