Coronation Streetcharacter Curtis Delamere, played by actor Sam Retford, was revealed to have a fake heart condition earlier this week.

In Monday’s episode of the ITV soap, doctors told Curtis that he actually had a clean bill of health – and should book an appointment with a psychologist for Factitious Illness Disorder.

But what is this exactly? OK online spoke exclusively to a Consultant Physician at the Royal London Hospital to find out the medical explanation of this rare disorder.

“Factitious illness disorder can be diagnosed when symptoms are misrepresented or caused by the patient themselves,” says Dr Tom Oates. “Symptoms can be either medical, such as abdominal or chest pain, or psychiatric, such as bereavement and depression.”

Curtis – viewers discovered – had been lying to fiancée Emma Brooker (Alexandra Mardell) and the rest of the Street’s residents since arriving on the famous cobbles by saying he had a terminal heart condition.

“Uniquely in Factitious Illness Disorder, there are usually no obvious rewards for simulating the symptoms, such as getting out of work, winning a lawsuit or accessing prescription drugs,” says Dr Oates. “Sufferers are often initially genuinely convincing – but it’s an extremely rare disorder.”

There are fewer than 100 recorded cased in the UK.

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“Although people with Factitious Illness Disorder know they are causing their symptoms or illnesses, they may not understand the reasons for their behaviors or even recognise they have a problem,” explains the Consultant Physician.

Signs and symptoms of factitious disorder might include:

  • Extensive knowledge of medical terms and diseases

  • Vague or inconsistent symptoms

  • Conditions that get worse for no apparent reason

  • Conditions that don't respond as expected to standard therapies

  • Seeking treatment from many different doctors or hospitals, which may include using a fake name

  • Reluctance to allow doctors to talk to family or friends or to other health care professionals

  • Frequent stays in the hospital

  • Eagerness to have frequent testing or risky operations

  • Many surgical scars or evidence of numerous procedures

  • Having few visitors when hospitalised

  • Arguing with doctors and staff


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“Recognising Factitious Illness Disorder is important as it may prevent harm to patients," adds Dr Oates. “Both from their own actions and complications of the unnecessary tests and treatments they may receive.

“As well as factitious disorder where symptoms are imposed on the self, there can be factitious disorder imposed on another, such as a child or vulnerable adult.

"It's interesting when a TV show sheds light on a little known medical disorder. But do remember it's rare."

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