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Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome

Definition:

Munchausen's and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Description:

A disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

Please, find these symptoms interesting

Both Munchausen’s Syndrome and Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS), are strategies to gain sympathetic attention by either creating or faking symptoms of serious illness.

In Munchausen’s Syndrome, an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates their own illness or medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.

In MBPS, an individual - typically a mother - deliberately makes another person sick (most often his or her own young child) or convinces others that the person is sick.

The parent or caregiver misleads others into thinking that the child has medical problems by reporting fictitious episodes, including exaggerating, fabricating, or inducing symptoms. As a result, doctors commonly order tests, experiment with medications and, in severe cases, may hospitalize the child or perform surgery to determine the cause.

Typically, the perpetrator feels satisfied because he or she has the attention and sympathy of doctors, nurses, and others.

In some MBPS cases, since the parent or caregiver appears concerned, wrongdoing is not suspected. Frequently, the perpetrator is familiar with the medical profession and is skilled at fooling medical staff. It is not unusual for medical personnel to overlook the possibility of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome because of the controversy surrounding it or because it goes against the commonly held belief that a parent or caregiver would never deliberately hurt his or her own child.

Children who are subject to Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome are typically very young, although there have been reported cases in children up to 16 years old. There are equal numbers of boy and girl victims of MBPS.

Statistically, 98% of the perpetrators of MBPS are female.

It should be noted that there is strong controversy over the existence of Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. The originator of the term, British Pediatrician Roy Meadow, was discredited for misrepresenting statistical data in his expert witness testimony in the conviction of mothers of children who died from cot deaths (also known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome - or SIDS). In a nutshell, he testified that the likelihood of more than one incidence of SIDS in a single family was so remote as to warrant a conviction. Several cases in which he testified have since been overturned in British Courts.

Critics of the MBPS theory point out that there is no clinical criteria and that objective evidence of abuse must be produced prior to removing children from parental custody.

What it Looks Like

  • A man frequently returns to a health care provider with inconsistent medical complaints.
  • A parent observes symptoms of illness in a child that nobody else can detect, and insists that a battery of tests be performed.
  • A child contracts a common virus and the mother attributes the symptoms to an undiagnosed chronic condition.
  • A child is developing normally, but the mother insists she can detect symptoms of a mental disorder.

How it Feels

The child of a parent who is exposing them to MPBS may feel alarm or discomfort as a series of strangers intrusively examine and interrogate them looking for things that might be wrong. Therefore, they are frequently receiving the message from grown-ups that something IS wrong with them, and this can lead to developmental delay and fear of strangers - especially doctors - and a distorted world-view.

For third parties - spouses or relatives of people exhibiting MBPS-like behaviors - this can be a confusing and frightening experience. You may not have all the facts you need to judge what is really going on. On the one hand, you do not want to keep a child away from critical medical care when they need. On the other, you do not want the child to be exposed to unnecessary and intrusive investigations and diagnoses, or suffer the associated psychological and physical damage.

For doctors and health care professionals - it can be disturbing and frightening when confronted with a parent who is possibly manifesting MBPS. There is the underlying fear of a malpractice accusation when facing a parent who will not take “no” for an answer. There can also be the confusion of having to deal other family members who vehemently disagree on what the facts are. Many doctors ultimately err on the side of caution - referring to specialists and ordering additional tests and over-medicating and over-diagnosing just to protect themselves, which comes at the expense of the best interests of the child.

What NOT to Do

  • When dealing with a possible MBPS problem:
  • Don’t get into arguments with the perpetrator.
  • Don’t go it alone or try to solve the problem yourself.
  • Don’t interrogate a child or share with them your disapproval of their parent.
  • Don’t ignore the problem. Don’t abdicate the problem to others.

What TO Do

  • Seek advice from a well-qualified attorney, Guardian ad litem or children’s advocate.
  • Document all that you have observed as thoroughly and candidly as you can.
  • Report what you have seen. Be honest about what you know AND what you don’t know (it will be uncovered anyway). Be objective and sincere - remember - it is a child you are representing and you must put the best interests of the child ahead of your own.
  • If you have regular contact with the child, assure them of their value, and praise their positive qualities.

Related Personality Disorders:

Paranoid, Borderline, Histrionic, Dependent, Obsessive-Compulsive

Muchausen's & Munchausen by Proxy Links:

Dr. Marc Feldman's Munchausen Syndrome, Malingering, Factitious Disorder, & Munchausen by Proxy Page - Information Site about Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen by Proxy

http://www.msbp.com UK Site questioning the validity of MBPS/MSBP syndrome with links to news articles and cases where the theory has been discredited.

http://www.ashermeadow.com MBPS education & information site.

Site by MBP consultant & author Louisa Lasher

http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/sick/munchausen.htm


For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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