Ganser Syndrome (A Comprehensive Guide)

This article is a detailed overview of ‘Ganser Syndrome’ and discusses some pertinent aspects related to this disorder.

Also, this article reveals possible symptoms, diagnostic aspects and possible treatments that offer insight into this problem.

What is Ganser Syndrome?

Ganser Syndrome refers to a rare mental condition in which an individual starts believing that he is suffering from some mental illness when in reality he does not have the disorder.

These individuals are fully conscious and aware as they act out on their non-existent mental illnesses.

Individuals with Ganser Syndrome mimic symptoms caused by mental health disorders, like schizophrenia.

Another name for Ganser Syndrome is “prison psychosis” as it was first discovered among prisoners.

An individual with a factitious disorder will even go through painful medical procedures to prove that he is mentally ill in order to gain sympathy of people.

Individuals showing Ganser Syndrome do it for sympathy, not financial benefit.

Factitious disorders are also considered mental health disorders due to their association with extreme emotional trauma.

The discoverer of the Ganser Syndrome is Sigbert Josef Maria Ganser.

In 1898, he studied the mental disorder he observed in the prisoners that were awaiting trial in prison in Germany.

According to him, the main symptoms he listed include impaired consciousness and distorted communication in the form of wrongly estimated or insensible answers.

This mental illness was then named Ganser Syndrome.

Hypochondriasis is some what similar to Ganser Syndrome in terms of the fact that people feel they are sick or ill.

But unlike in Ganser Syndrome, people in Hypochondriasis don’t claim they’re ill because they want sympathy.

But, because they genuinely feel ill.


Other names used to refer to Ganser Syndrome include Balderdash Syndrome, PseudoDementia, Approximate Answer Syndrome and Nonsense Syndrome.

These names are based on the clinical features of this syndrome.

Ganser Syndrome can happen to any individual based on the estimated wide age range of about 15 to 40 years in reported cases.

Male to female ratio is 3 or 4:1, which indicates that there is a higher risk of males developing the Ganser Syndrome.

This ratio with male dominance is most probably the result of higher number of males compared to females in the prisons.

Ganser Syndrome is also observed in children.

And the exact physical cause of this syndrome has not been identified yet.

At-Risk Populations

Individuals belonging to different cultural backgrounds have been observed with Ganser Syndrome.

Historically, it was believed that males have a higher chance of developing this mental illness.

According to reports, the chance is higher in females but it is suggested that it might be because of the greater number of males who are incarcerated.

Ganser Syndrome has also been reported among children and individuals aged between 15 to 40 years.

This diverse range of age is based off case studies of different individuals, but this only includes cases that have been reported.

More research is needed to come up with a more specific answer for age distribution.

In addition to this, Ganser Syndrome is observed in general population groups along with prisoners.

Causes or Contributing Factors

Not much has been discovered in the case of Ganser Syndrome. It is considered as a response or reaction to extremely stressful circumstances.

An individual may want to avoid some unwanted and stress-causing situation or some responsibility, and he may end up with the Ganser Syndrome.

Physical trauma, like brain injury and stroke, can lead to symptoms associated with the Ganser Syndrome.

Drug abuse, for example alcoholism, may also lead to similar symptoms.

These factors may contribute to Ganser Syndrome in a healthy individual.

Mostly individuals suffering from Ganser Syndrome also have a personality disorder, which is usually antisocial personality disorder histrionic personality disorder.

Antisocial personality disorder makes an individual irresponsible and aggressive towards others, and he is unable to follow society’s rules.

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are called sociopaths or psychopaths.

Individuals with histrionic personality disorder develop a desire for attention.

They often act out dramatically or inappropriately to attract people towards themselves.

Their self-esteem is dependent on approval of others and is not made of an individual’s own true feelings of worth.

Some people suffer from a very unique kind of syndrome, called the Peter Pan Syndrome.


 Ganser Syndrome is considered as a factitious disorder and it is a rare form of dissociative disorder.

An individual with this disorder will exhibit the following symptoms:

• Give wrong or illogical answers to questions. They face severe anxiety and are not comfortable in normal speech. They face trouble answering normal and simple questions especially related to health and illnesses. 

• Perform tasks wrongly and leave the task incomplete. 

• Some patients are seen with memory loss, especially amnesia

Conversion disorder.

• Visual pseudohallucinations.

• Decreased consciousness.

• Cloudy consciousness.

• Somatic conversion symptoms.

• Confusion.

• Stress and Depression. 

• Loss of identity.

 The psychological symptoms faced by an individual with Ganser Syndrome, usually depend on the individual’s mental state.

Treatment Options

There is no confirmation yet about how long it takes for symptoms of Ganser Syndrome to completely disappear in different individuals.

This is because individuals with Ganser Syndrome are usually not capable enough to cope with mental stress in different situations.

They are unable to fully understand or manage their stress.

Individuals usually come up with fake symptoms, not just as a response to stressful situations, but they are actually often unable to fully understand their mental condition.

For individuals with Ganser Syndrome, medications are usually only prescribed if the individual suffers from anxiety, depression or psychosis, along with Ganser Syndrome.

Psychotherapy, which means counseling, is used for individuals with Ganser Syndrome.

This psychological treatment also checks for return of symptoms in individuals.

What is the problem with Ganser Syndrome?

If the individual with Ganser Syndrome becomes a danger to himself or others around him due to the severity of his symptoms, then he must be hospitalized.

This also usually happens during the acute phase of the symptoms.

A neurosurgeon will be required to rule out any possibility of an organic disease behind the observed symptoms in an individual.

Psychotherapy is mainly done in case of individuals with Ganser Syndrome to ensure proper functioning of one’s mental ability.

This is important to confirm the individual’s mental conduct, which in turn affects physical conduct.

Ganser Syndrome targets an individual’s mental capacity during extreme stressful and unwanted situations.

This leads to deterioration of the mental state.

In this case, psychotherapy will be used to treat an individual for depression, anxiety, etc, all the psychiatric symptoms. Here medications are normally not prescribed.

Some Useful Resources


Ganser Syndrome, in most cases, is linked to a very specific underlying cause that could be either a stressful event or a series of unwanted circumstances that the individual might want to avoid.

This specific cause should be correctly recognized and then rectified to treat and cure Ganser Syndrome in most individuals.

The mental capacity is reduced in this mental illness, in which case psychotherapy is used to treat depression and other similar symptoms of the disorder.

Medications are often not needed. Hospitalization may be required depending on the severity of the symptoms and mental condition of the patient.

The symptoms mostly disappear on their own and their timings vary in different individuals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Is Ganser syndrome a Recognised psychiatric illness?

Ganser Syndrome is referred to as a dissociative disorder which has not been otherwise specified in the DSM-4, and not included in the DSM-5 list.

It is a rare mental illness, and most of the times it is not diagnosed properly and usually overlooked by clinics.

It is characterized by extreme stress after which amnesia follows during the psychosis period.

Q2. What is Ganser syndrome?

Ganser Syndrome is a true recognized mental illness observed in many individuals, usually going through stressful events that may deeply affect an individual’s mental state.

In this case, the individual starts developing symptoms similar to other mental disorders like depression, anxiety etc.

These symptoms may be exaggerated or underestimated by the individual himself owing to his reduced mental capacity in Ganser Syndrome.

This is because Ganser Syndrome gradually affects an individual’s thinking capacity and often his capacity to distinguish right from wrong.

Q3. What are some of the common symptoms of Ganser syndrome?

Common symptoms of Ganser Syndrome include mental pressure in the form of stress, amnesia, wrong or illogical answers to simple or straightforward questions, clouded consciousness, somatic conversion disorder symptoms, confusion, tension, loss of identity, echolalia and echopraxia.

Q4. How can you treat Ganser syndrome?

Usually medications are not required. The symptoms go away on their own.

And individuals are left with amnesia for sometime after the symptoms disappear.

In different individuals, symptoms go away at different times depending on the individual’s mental condition mainly and severity of the symptoms.

Q5. Can Ganser syndrome be cured?

There is no proper way to cure or prevent the Ganser Syndrome.

This is because the cause of Ganser Syndrome has not been fully specified yet.

One way to cure Ganser Syndrome is to recognize what situation caused it in the first place, after finding this link, the ’cause’ should then be corrected.

Additionally, according to reports, Ganser Syndrome limits the individual’s life and has drastic effects on an individual.

In this case, the individuals usually recover quickly and completely from the Ganser Syndrome.

Q6. Does it worsen with age?

The exact physical cause of this syndrome is still unknown.

It may occur to any individual aged between 15 to 40 years according to reported cases.

It can happen to children as well according to reports.

Usually the Ganser Syndrome is linked with a specific underlying cause, like a series of unwanted and stress causing situations, which lead to a negative affect on an individual’s mental state.

As Ganser Syndrome affects an individual’s mental capacity, it may be more harmful for individuals that are aged because with age, brain function starts declining.

And the mental illness symptoms may be more severe in this case.


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