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Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy

Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy, both are factitious disorders characterized by attention seeking behaviour. Individuals affected with Munchausen syndrome generally fake symptoms or exhibit exaggerated symptoms without any underlying cause. On the other hand, Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a form of child abuse wherein the parents or caregivers feign symptoms and signs in a child either by lying or injuring the child themselves.

Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by proxy: Incidence, age and sex

Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy, both are extremely rare psychological problems encountered in the general population. The incidence may be more common in early adulthood with a higher predilection in men.

Signs and symptoms of Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy: Diagnosis

An individual with Munchausen syndrome has frequent symptoms which necessitates repeated hospital visits and investigations. The investigations and physical examination generally show no positive findings in spite of frequent and persistent health complaints like abdominal pain, breathlessness, vomiting and diarrhoea. The symptoms do not fit the classical picture of any illness. In fact, the individual usually has a fairly good knowledge of medical terminology and also has a history of repeated hospital visits.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy, is characterized by frequent hospital visits of parents/caregivers due to persistent complaints regarding their child’s health. Such complaints are typically inconsistent with physical examination and investigations of child. Sometimes, such parents deliberately injure the child to fabricate illness.

A long history of multiple hospital visits without any fruitful outcome may lead to suspicions of the disease. A detailed psychological assessment may help in detecting this disorder. It is important to conduct a comprehensive physical examination to exclude any physical or organ disease. Sometimes it becomes difficult to find out whether the individual is honestly affected or is malingering.

Causes and prevention of Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy

The exact cause of this disorder is not clear. However it is usually seen in individual with a traumatic past like people at war, victims of natural disaster or sexual abuse in childhood. Such individuals are prone to this psychological disorder which may get triggered by some unbearable stress.

Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by proxy: Complications

Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy, is a state of malingering which does not lead to any complications on its own; however multiple tests, procedures or repeated medications may result in serious health concerns.

Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen Syndrome by proxy: Treatment

There is no specific treatment of this psychological disorder. There are no medications for this disorder. The treatment modalities include psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Sometimes medications like anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed in individuals who suffer from concurrent depression or anxiety.

The affected parents or caregivers may need special counselling and psychotherapy. At the same time, the child may need protection from such psychologically impaired and abusive caregivers.