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