Munchausen Syndrome

Munchausen syndrome is a psychological condition that leads someone to continuing seeking medical help for symptoms of an illness that they don’t have.

There is another form of this condition called Munchausen syndrome by Proxy (MSBP).  This is a psychological disorder marked by attention seeking behavior. It is along the same lines but instead of projecting fake symptoms or illness onto themselves, MSBP is when the caregiver of someone else makes up illness or symptoms on another person.  This could be a child, an elderly family member or someone who has disability. This disorder is very rare and usually happens to mothers. They will constantly seek medical attention for their child and gaining the attention they want from all the medical professionals trying to help their child.  Sometimes the mental sickness can become too great when medical documents start to get falsified or the person with the disorder starts to induce symptoms by poisoning, suffocating or starving their proxy.

People who have this condition are sometimes mothers and can be healthcare professionals themselves. People who suffer from Munchausen syndrome themselves have a higher chance of projecting it onto a child. Sometimes looking at the child’s records can help determine if their caregiver suffers from MSBP. Looking at how many times a child has been in the hospital, if treatment does not follow what test results have shown, worsening of symptoms happens when healthcare providers aren’t around only the caregiver, such as the mother.  

This mental disorder is very hard to diagnose.  And because of this it is hard to know how common or how many people suffer from this disorder.  There is no known cause of what leads to having MSBP, but usually it has been observed in people who have suffered some kind of abuse as a child, or a loss of a parent early in life. It is very hard to diagnose MSBP because you have to make sure that whoever they are projecting illness on is truly not sick, before you can then start seeing if the caregiver is the one who is suffering from the mental illness. Just as diagnosing is so hard, so can be treating this disorder.  It can be very hard to make the person suffering from MSBP to acknowledge there is a problem. The safety of everyone involved is always the first priority. People who have MSBP are very good a lying so to get them help it is important to make sure they are telling the truth which can be very difficult. Usually counseling will be prescribed.

There is no known way to prevent this illness.  Sometimes children who are the proxy of someone with Munchausen syndrome end up developing Munchausen syndrome themselves because they relate getting attention from being sick. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is considered child abuse, which is a criminal offense.  



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