Hi! I’m an 18 year old girl and about a year ago I started researching different disorders and relating to symptoms.The thing is, every time I found I fit a diagnostic criteria for certain disorder, mostly cluster B personality disorders, instead of trying to deny the symptoms I started acting and thinking even more accordingly and felt proud of it.Now I’m getting a bit depressed because I feel like I have no idea who I actually am and what I actually think as I’m always trying to mold myself to fit the criteria.Acting disordered makes me feel good because it makes people notice my symptoms and it gives me reassurance, in a way.

A. The practice you have described is unusual. It’s as though you are attempting to have a disorder in order to gain attention. Perhaps you feel that you have to fake symptoms in order to get those around you to notice you. I am wondering what symptoms you have faked, how you accomplish this and how it is received by others. In what ways do they respond to you and in what ways does their response make you feel better?

Having a desire to be ill is a characteristic of people who have factitious disorder. Factitious disorder is a condition in which an individual person pretends as though he or she has a physical or mental illness. Individuals with this disorder have a strong desire to present themselves as being injured or ill. They will deliberately create a set of symptoms for the sole purpose of gaining attention and sympathy from others. They may create symptoms that do not exist or lie about their experiences.

It’s important to note that I cannot know with certainty if you have factitious disorder or if you have any disorder. Diagnosing psychological conditions requires meeting in person with a mental health professional who conducts a thorough, psychosocial evaluation.

In all likelihood, one’s attempting to appear sick is to gain attention. You may believe that it’s necessary. If that is the case, I take this as a sign of your unhappiness. My recommendation would be to consult a mental health professional who can explore why you feel the need to fake illnesses in order to gain attention. A therapist can teach you healthy coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills to replace your maladaptive behavior.

You may want to ask your parents to assist you in finding a therapist or you can ask your primary care physician for a referral. Try several therapists until you find one with whom you’re comfortable. Therapy has helped many, many people and it can help you too. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle