Definition

What is Ganser syndrome?

Ganser syndrome is a type of factitious disorder, a mental illness in which a person deliberately and consciously acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick. People with Ganser syndrome mimic behavior that is typical of a mental illness, such as schizophrenia. Ganser syndrome is sometimes called “prison psychosis” because it was first observed in prisoners.

People with factitious disorders act this way because of an inner need to be seen as ill or injured — not to achieve a clear benefit, such as financial gain. They are even willing to undergo painful or risky tests and operations in order to obtain the sympathy and special attention given to people who are truly ill. Factitious disorders are technically considered mental illnesses because they are associated with severe emotional difficulties.

How common is Ganser syndrome?

Ganser syndrome is very rare. It is more common in men than in women and most often occurs in the late teens and early adult years. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Ganser syndrome?

People with Ganser syndrome have short-term episodes of odd behavior similar to that shown by people with other serious mental illnesses.

The person may appear confused, make absurd statements, and report hallucinations such as the experience of sensing things that are not there or hearing voices.

A classic symptom of Ganser syndrome is vorbeireden. This is when the person gives nonsense answers to simple questions.

In addition, a person with this condition may report physical problems such as an inability to move part of the body, called “hysterical paralysis.”

Loss of memory (amnesia) of the events that occurred during an episode is common.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have or your loved one has any signs or symptoms listed above or has any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Ganser syndrome?

Little is known about this unusual disorder, but it is believed to be a reaction to extreme stress. Another factor that may contribute to Ganser syndrome is a desire to avoid responsibility or an unpleasant situation. There are also physical problems that may cause the symptoms of Ganser syndrome. These include alcoholism, head injury, and stroke.

Most people with this disorder also have a personality disorder, usually antisocial personality disorder or histrionic personality disorder.

  • Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by irresponsible and aggressive behavior that often involves a disregard for others and an inability to abide by society’s rules. People with antisocial personality disorder are sometimes referred to as “sociopaths” or “psychopaths.”
  • For people with histrionic personality disorder, their self-esteem depends on the approval of others and does not arise from a true feeling of self-worth. They have an overwhelming desire to be noticed, and often behave dramatically or inappropriately to get attention.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Ganser syndrome?

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Ganser syndromediagnosed?

It is extremely difficult to diagnose Ganser syndrome as the affected individual will never admit to faking symptoms and moreover this condition is absolutely rare.

A thorough physical examination will be done to rule out the symptoms that the patient has been complaining of. Once all the conditions have been ruled out a diagnosis of Ganser syndrome is considered.

Once this condition is suspected then the patient will be referred to a psychiatrist or a psychologist for further investigations. A session or two with the psychologist will be good enough to confirm the diagnosis of Ganser syndrome.

How is Ganser syndrometreated?

The first goal of treatment is to be sure the person does not hurt himself or herself, or others. The person may need to be hospitalized if the symptoms are extreme and/or if the person could be dangerous. It is difficult to predict whether and when symptoms of Ganser syndrome are likely to go away. This is partly because people with Ganser Syndrome often present with fake symptoms not just simply in response to a stressful event, but because the condition often reflects someone’s limited ability to cope effectively with stresses when they occur.

Supportive psychotherapy (a type of counseling), and monitoring for safety and a return of symptoms are the main treatments for Ganser syndrome. Medication usually is not used, unless the person also suffers from depression, anxiety, or certain kinds of personality disorders.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Ganser syndrome?

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: February 9, 2018 | Last Modified: February 9, 2018

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