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What Can I Do to Help My Father When We Suspect My Mother Has Factitious Disorder?

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What can I do if I suspect my mother has factitious disorder; she has, for many years, exaggerated sickness when lacking attention, persisted in problems to get possibly unnecessary surgery ( from which she inexplicably has difficulty or never recovers from), and most recently seriously mis-manages her type 2 diabetes. As example, recently when my sister, father and myself were away seeing to the needs of my grandmother who was very ill and eventually passed away, we received a call from a neighbor saying that she went to visit my mother and found her lying in the floor unable to get up because she was so weak. My mother claimed to have been there for 3 hours unable to get up because she was so weak from the flu. she was taken to the ER where she was cleared and given antibiotics and an inhaler for coughing. She has manipulated her insulin/food intake three times in as many years to bring about a seizure episode and requiring ambulance/hospital intervention. She did this just this weekend by pretending to eat breakfast after administering insulin injection, then not taking her purse containing the glycogen she keeps there, resulting in her making a scene saying that she needed chocolate then eventually ending in a seizure and ambulance ride to the hospital. She, of course, was examined and released once her blood sugar regulated. These seizures have ONLY occurred when extended family were present and she appeared to be ‘pouting’ for lack of perceived attention. She spends 98% of her time at home alone (she is retired, but insists that she isn’t well enough to do anything or much more than leave the sofa) and she has never had an ‘episode’ or seizure while alone. This is so dangerous to her and frustrating for us! What can we do??

What Can I Do to Help My Father When We Suspect My Mother Has Factitious Disorder?

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A.

Your family should consult a therapist to assist in this matter. One area of focus may be changing the manner in which you interact with your mother. Learning how to react differently may insulate you and others from her attention-seeking behavior or at least, minimize its effects.

You might also try attending local family-to-family groups via the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). It is an excellent service. It is free and available in most cities. They provide group support for family members who have a loved one with mental illness.

You mentioned that your mother may have factitious disorder. It’s best to avoid diagnosing if you’re not a professional. You might consult a therapist about her potential diagnosis but if she’s not willing to undergo an evaluation, you might never know what’s wrong. In any event, learning a new way of interacting her may be the best approach to this problem. Therapy and NAMI groups could be greatly beneficial for the whole family.

At some point, given your mother’s propensity towards self-harm, you might explore guardianship or other legal remedies. For instance, an individual may be declared incompetent if their impairment is affecting their ability to care for themselves. If declared incompetent, an individual is assigned a guardian to manage decisions on their behalf. That type of remedy may or may not be appropriate in your situation.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this problem. I hope these ideas helped in some small way. Good luck and please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

What Can I Do to Help My Father When We Suspect My Mother Has Factitious Disorder?

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2019). What Can I Do to Help My Father When We Suspect My Mother Has Factitious Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/01/16/what-can-i-do-to-help-my-father-when-we-suspect-my-mother-has-factitious-disorder/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 15 Jan 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 15 Jan 2019
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