We recently wantched a film based on Munchausen’s syndrome and Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy. It really got me thinking about awareness and how many people really know about this psychological disorder.
The film we watched was called A Daughters Nightmare and it’s really worth a watch – if you can find it on sky you can watch it for free.
There are two types of Munchausen’s Syndrome: Munchausen’s syndrome and Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.
Munchausen’s syndrome is a psychological disorder where a person purposefully makes themselves sick or deliberately produces symptoms of illness in themselves. Their main aim is to have people care for them and be the centre of attention.
Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a relatively rare form or child abuse that involves a person – usually a parent – causing or exaggerating an illness or symptoms to another. It isn’t just children who suffer this, anybody can be a victim. For example one parent could be doing it to another, or to their own parents or to a friend or love interest.
MBPS is also known as medical child abuse and is a mental illness that requires treatment. The abusers main aim is to seek attention and sympathy (though some believe it is the satisfaction in deception) for the individual and themselves by either misleading people (mainly medical professionals) or by actually causing illness symptoms via medication, poisoning and also suffocation. In around 85% of cases the mother is responsible for the abuse.
Its not often that somebody suspects any wrongdoing as the parent or caregiver seems caring and attentive meaning diagnosis can be extremely difficult.
In a lot of cases the abuser is familiar with the medical profession for example having been a doctor, nurse etc as that are very knowledgeable about how to cause illness or impairment in a child or other individual.
It is thought a lot of victims are preschool age however there have been cases in children up to the age of 16 years and there is often an equal number of boys and girls affected.
When diagnosing somebody one would look for:
- a child with various medical issues that fail to respond to any treatment and/or are persistent and puzzling that do not correspond with said persons medical history, lab findings or clinically impossible.
- a parent of caregiver that isn’t happy to know there is no medical problems found.
- a parent of caregiver whom continues to insist the person/child is ill and may go to different doctors to find one that believes the person is sick.
- short term symptoms that tend to stop/improve when the victim is away from the abuser.
- a parent or caregiver who appears to be medically knowledgeable or fascinated with medical details
- a parent of caregiver that enjoys the hospital environment and attention the sick person receives.
MBPS is a psychiatric condition which could be caused by a number of things:
- the abused may have been abused themselves either physically or sexually
- they may have come from a family where being sick way a way for get love and/or attention
- their own needs overcome their ability to see the child is a person with feeling and rights – possibly from growing up this way themselves
- in rare cases it is caused by a medical professional who induces illness in a child who is in hospital for other reasons
Munchausen’s is a serious case of abuse but it is also important to know that the abuser is sick themselves and has mental health issues. Support should be given to both the abused and the abuser to help them heal and get past all of the hurt and suffering they have gone through in their lives.
I personally do not know anybody who had been abused or an abuser but when I realised that few people around me really know what is was and what it meant I felt this post was important to increase awareness.