Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy - Experience

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What is Munchausen syndrome by proxy?

Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) features a caretaker covertly abusing a child by faking or causing symptoms in the child victim. MSBP is also called Munchausen by proxy (MBP), factitious disorder that is imposed by one individual on another, induced illness, or fabricated illness and is a mental disorder that belongs to the group of mental illnesses called somatic symptom and related disorders. It is characterized by a feigning or intentional production of physical or mental-health symptoms in another person for the sole purpose of placing the other person in the sick role. While the reported frequency with which it occurs seems low at one to three in 100,000, it is likely that the actual number of undiscovered MSBP cases is much higher. MSBP tends to affect males as victims as often as females. Affected individuals are usually 4 years old or younger and mothers are the perpetrators most of the time. The tendency toward maternal perpetrators may be more a result of women continuing to be the primary caregiver than any gender-based predisposition to the disorder. MSBP can take two years or more from the beginning or onset of symptoms to when it is diagnosed. Victims of MSBP are ominously found to have a sibling who is either deceased or to have had medical problems very similar to the current victim of the disorder.

This disorder was named for Baron Karl Friedrich von Munchausen. Baron von Munchausen lived from 1720-1797, was born in Germany, joined the Russian military, and was known to tell fantastic tales about the battles he participated in against the Ottoman Turks. For example, he apparently told stories about riding cannonballs and traveling to the moon. As opposed to MSBP (factitious disorder imposed on another person), factitious disorder imposed on self is a mental illness in which what are initially thought to be symptoms of illness in the sufferer are in reality a fabrication of the illness by the sufferer rather than fabrication of illness by a third person. The motivation for factitious disorder imposed on self also tends to be an attempt by the sufferer to be seen as sick (assuming the sick or patient role). Emotional problems that tend to co-occur in people with MSBP include depression, anxiety, and some personality disorders like borderline personality disorder and sociopathy.

Return to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP)

See what others are saying

Comment from: steve g, 45-54 Male (Caregiver) Published: September 08

I had a quick first-hand experience with Munchausen syndrome by proxy. My stepmother, who I now know has passive-aggressive personality disorder has done it to two, probably three animals at least. She fed Panadol to a dog, causing anaphylaxis and made a great fuss attempting to save it. She was a nurse, she knew what she was doing. I witnessed this. Ten minutes after it died she asked me to dispose of it at the local shopping mall, she was smiling. So, it gets to animals too. She told me she 'accidentally' stabbed a cat also.

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Comment from: 55tbird, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 15

I had my first major hip surgery at age 11. I was to be absolutely non-weight bearing for a year, and used crutches. My mother made me walk a mile to and from school every day even though I told her it was impossible to go all day without putting weight on my leg. As the doctor had warned, after one year the 2nd surgery was necessary. Much later in life and 4 total hip replacements later, my mother kept me isolated from my family by fabricating stories about my being paranoid schizophrenic and delusional. None of my siblings has spoken to me for 35 years, so I didn't know what was being said about me but I had a suspicion. Recently my sister let it slip that she knew I was delusional and paranoid schizophrenic because mother had told her. Mother died 2 years ago. She had Munchausen syndrome by proxy. She was always one to need to dominate others and in conversation with others, no one dared interrupt her. She seemed to need an excessive amount of sympathy, and thrived on being admired for her great strength in spite of deep emotional suffering in silence. Or so she could imagine. She was never very silent about it. My siblings were her enablers and to this day, they hate me for what they believe I did to poor old mom. Interestingly, today they are all substance abusers, mostly alcoholics, and I am not. My friend thinks they went along with it and enabled her because for them it replaced having to take self-inventory, and clean their houses, so to speak.

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