Horrible Diseases and Disorders That People Love to Fake

There are many “silent killers” out there — dangerous diseases you could have and not even know it. These conditions are real — and really easy to fake. Some people pretend to have an illness to get out of jury duty, while others scam thousands of dollars from people who genuinely believe they’re ill — even when they aren’t.

Find out the health conditions people fake most often, why they do it, and how to become a “fake illness detective” on the internet.


Cancer patient with therapy dog

Be wary of cancer claims that seem fake. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

More than once, bloggers and other ill-willed internet personas have used crowdfunding and social media to gain social and financial support for cancer treatments they’ll never get. Many deadly cancers and their treatments have obvious physical symptoms that make it hard — but not impossible — to fake.

Next: These conditions are no joke.

Chronic pain disorders

lower back

Things like lower back pain are hard to prove. | globalmoments/iStock/Getty Images

Chronic “invisible illnesses” like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are extremely easy to fake. All you have to do is list off a generic handful of symptoms, because that’s really all doctors have to go off of when diagnosing and treating them at this point.

Next: Mood swings are mild compared to this very real condition.

Bipolar disorder

happy and sad two-faced expression

Several mental health conditions can be tricky to diagnose. | iStock.com/twinsterphoto

In some cases, mood swings are a sign of bipolar disorder — a mental health condition in which a person “cycles” through periods of mania and depression. It can cause risky, abnormal behavior in some people, but it’s no excuse for excessive anger or recklessness.

Next: Not wanting to get out of bed on Monday morning doesn’t mean you have this condition.


Talking to someone makes all the difference. |  iStock/Monkeybusiness

Depression isn’t an excuse to stay in bed longer or avoid socializing with your friends when you don’t feel like leaving the house. People living with depression experience many unexpected symptoms that laziness simply can’t account for.

Next: A real mental health condition affects everyday life.


man in casual clothes abandoned lost in depression

Anxiety is extremely unpleasant. | iStock.com/OcusFocus

Does your heart pound whenever you have to make a phone call? Do you get nervous before getting up in front of a crowd? You definitely have social anxiety — or not. Anxiety disorders negatively impact every aspect of a person’s life, not just a few unpleasant situations here and there.

Next: Are you bad at socializing? You might think you have this disorder.


depressed man at the psychotherapist

This is a difficult one to diagnose. | iStock.com/vadimguzhva

People who are socially awkward likely do not have autism spectrum disorder, but anyone can look up their “symptoms” online and diagnose themselves with anything without a doctor’s help. Especially in adults, autism goes beyond taking sarcasm too literally and obsessing over a single subject.

Next: Gluten is now evil, apparently.

Celiac disease

A young woman on gluten free diet

With the popularity of “gluten free,” this disease is losing ground. | iStock.com/lolostock

Do you have a friend who claims she’s “allergic to gluten”? She probably doesn’t know there’s no such thing. Legitimate celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to a protein called gluten, different than a wheat allergy. Only about¬†1% of the population actually has it. Many who are anti-gluten don’t actually need to be.

Next: These conditions sound much more dramatic than they often are.

Heart conditions

Woman having heart attack symptom

Sometimes only you can tell if something is truly wrong. | iStock.com/Tharakorn

Not all heart conditions are immediately life-threatening. The heart is an organ you can’t live without, though, and heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States. Those looking for a dramatic, high-stakes condition to portray might focus their efforts here.

Next: What’s the biggest reason people fake diseases?

Why do people fake having serious diseases?

Sick man with thermometer in mouth

How often are people faking it? | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

Many who pretend to have an illness actually do have one — a mental health condition that transforms their need for attention into a strong desire to prove they’re sick. Some do it for the money, taking advantage of crowdfunding services like GoFundMe to “earn” financial support.

Next: This practice can get you into serious legal trouble.

If people give you money for being “sick” you could go to jail

Sick woman cough in ved under blanket

Be mindful of this very real rule. | iStock.com/samotrebizan

One graduate student who faked cancer pled guilty to a felony forgery charge after writing and signing a fake doctor’s note. It only gets worse when you ask for — and accept — money. Some people get charged with fraud, and even end up in prison.

Next: Some people actually “fake” mental illness due to a legitimate mental illness.

Faking a disease is a real disorder

Side view of sick woman having coffee

Do you do this often? | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

People with factitious disorder live with a legitimate mental health condition in which they fake illness or injury. They will often go as far as injuring themselves to “prove” to medical professionals that they are in need of care. Not everyone who fakes an illness has this disorder, but it can explain why many people who know they are healthy go out of their way to convince us otherwise.

Next: Some people truly believe they have an illness, even when they don’t.

It’s not the same as hypochondria

Both can be incredibly taxing on your body. | iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov

Factitious disorder is not the same as hypochondria, a different condition in which a patient truly believes they are unwell. While some knowingly healthy people try to trick others into believing they are sick, hypochondria, or illness anxiety disorder, causes a person to worry excessively that they might have a serious illness even when test results show they are healthy.

Next: Sometimes a child is sickened by a parent on purpose.

Some parents lie about their kids’ health

Happy family in the park evening light. The lights of a sun. Mom, dad and baby happy walk at sunset. The concept of a happy family.Parents hold the baby's hands.

Is lying ever the good choice? | iStock.com/Lacheev

You may have heard of one form of factitious disorder, what used to be called Munchausen syndrome by proxy. This type of condition involves a family member faking the illness of another family member, often a parent claiming their child is ill when they are not.

Next: Not all heroes wear capes.

There are people dedicated to exposing fake illnesses online

Business class picture taken in studio.

That’s right, this is someone’s job. | manfeiyang/iStock/Getty Images

Taryn Harper Wright is a “fake illness detective.” She’s known for exposing hoaxes online involving people asking for support — and often finances — for illnesses they or their family members don’t actually have. She calls it “Munchausen by internet,” and has spent almost 20 years busting false pleas.

Next: You can be a fake illness detective, too.

Here’s how to tell if someone isn’t really sick

You’ll need all the tips you can get. | Megaflopp

Think someone is faking an illness? According to Mayo Clinic, many people exaggerate their symptoms just enough to gain sympathy — unless they get desperate. Be wary of the over-dramatic, sudden changes in health status, especially if someone is asking for your wallet.

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