Munchausen Syndrome - Causes or Risks

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What causes Munchausen syndrome?

Although there is no specific cause for Munchausen syndrome, like most other mental disorders, it is understood to be the result of a combination of biological vulnerabilities, ways of thinking, and social stressors (biopsychosocial model). Little is known about the specific biological vulnerabilities from which individuals with Munchausen syndrome are more likely to suffer. Psychologically, sufferers of this mental illness tend to have an increased need for control, an imbalance in the level of self-esteem (either low or excessively high), and a vulnerability to suffering from depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. Personality traits of individuals who have a history of feigning or inducing symptoms in themselves include some that are in common with borderline personality disorder (for example, if the person is dissociative or has another disturbance in their identity/sense of self; unstable relationships, recurrent self-mutilation, and/or recurrent thoughts or attempts at suicide) or antisocial personality disorder (for example, a tendency to lie, disregard the safety of themselves or others, and to have little empathy for others). Risk factors for people with Munchausen syndrome include enduring a major negative event (trauma) during their own childhood (such as a serious illness of themselves, a close family member or friend), having a grudge against the medical profession or having been themselves the victim of neglect, physical or sexual abuse, or other forms of maltreatment during childhood.

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Comment from: Marcie, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: March 07

I have been trying for years to understand my sister's problem, Munchausen syndrome. If someone in the family is sick, she is sick. She has an alcohol addiction and of course will not admit. She at one time was going from doctor to doctor and getting prescription pain relievers for everything under the sun. She made a mistake by going to my doctor. I informed him of what she was up to and gave him the names of the other doctors she was seeing. Her mother died of COPD. So now she claims constant colds sore throat, etc. She can be talking to me on the phone and be laughing, the next second having a crying jag. She will tell me she loves me at least 6 times before we hang up. I had a heart attack last spring. Soon after my other sister had to have a pacemaker. Now this sister is having the same symptoms. This has been going on with her since she was a very small child. I am 15 years older than her and it did not start until I left home at age 16. I was her mom. My stepmother never gave to the two youngest, the attention I thought that a mom should. I have tried for years to get her to seek a psychiatrist but she won"t.

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