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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Munchausen Syndrome
      Category : Health Centers > Mental Health (Mental Disorders)

Munchausen Syndrome

Alternate Names : Factitious Disorder, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, MSP

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder in which a person consciously fakes the symptoms of a physical disorder for attention. The person may have many medical tests and surgical procedures.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) is a parenting disorder. The parents, usually mothers, fake symptoms in their children. The child is then subjected to unnecessary tests or surgeries.

What is going on in the body?

A person with Munchausen syndrome fakes or pretends to have symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms are those of a specific illness. The individual fakes symptoms for psychological reasons rather than for financial gain or to get out of responsibilities. The person convincingly presents with intentional symptoms. For example, someone may inject germs into his or her own bloodstreams to cause illness.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The causes of Munchausen syndrome are not well understood. Little is known about its psychological components. The person is usually very unwilling to enter any kind of therapy. So it's difficult to do research on the disorder. Some case reports have suggested a history of childhood abuse, combined with frequent illnesses that required hospitalization. Hospitalizations may have been the only time when the child felt safe or nurtured.

A person with Munchausen syndrome often describes his or her parents as having been rejecting and distant. A person with Munchausen syndrome seems to be trying to create a nurturing parent-like bond with the healthcare providers by faking illness.

There is profile of a parent who is likely to have Munchausen syndrome by proxy. These parents are usually mothers. They are often healthcare professionals. They are very friendly with health professionals and very cooperative with medical procedures. They appear quite concerned about the child, and are sometimes described as overly concerned.


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Munchausen Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Date Reviewed: 07/02/01

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