Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder in which those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. It is in a class of disorders known as factitious disorders which involve “illnesses” whose symptoms are either self-induced or falsified by the patient. They might lie about or fake symptoms, hurt themselves to bring on symptoms, or alter diagnostic tests (such as contaminating a urine sample). Signs of Munchausen syndrome include is dramatic but inconsistent medical history. Presence of symptoms only when the patient is alone or not being observed and willingness or eagerness to have medical tests. The most cause of Munchausen syndrome is biological, psychological factors and personality disorders. Munchausen syndrome afflicts the patient who presents with the complaint. Munchausen syndrome by proxy involves inflicting injury on a child or other dependent person in order to simulate symptoms. Treatment of Munchausen syndrome is often difficult, and there are no standard treatments for the condition. Treatment generally includes psychotherapy and behavior counseling.
Causes of Munchausen Syndrome
The exact cause of Munchausen syndrome is not known, but researchers believe both biological and psychological factors play a role in the development of this syndrome. Some theories suggest that a history of abuse or neglect as a child, or a history of frequent illnesses requiring hospitalization might be factors associated with the development of this syndrome. Researchers also are studying the possible link with personality disorders, which are common in individuals with Munchausen syndrome
Signs and Symptoms of Munchausen Syndrome
Individuals with Munchausen syndrome intentionally produce or exaggerate symptoms. They may lie about or fake symptoms, self-induce injury to cause symptoms, or alter the results of tests by contaminating samples such as a urine sample. Signs and symptoms of Munchausen syndrome may include the following:
Poorly formed identity and severe problems with self-esteem.
Alternative Treatment of Munchausen Syndrome
Common Treatment of Munchausen Syndrome
Nonconfrontational intervention may help people with Munchausen.
Treatment generally includes psychotherapy and behavior counseling. If possible, family therapy also may be suggested.
Psychotherapy of various types (strategic, psychodynamic, cognitive) has been reported anecdotally to be of benefit in selected cases.
Because the cause of Munchausen syndrome is unknown, formulating a prevention strategy is difficult. Some medical facilities and healthcare practitioners have attempted to limit hospital admissions for Munchausen patients by sharing medical records. While these attempts may curb the number of hospital admissions, they do not treat the underlying disorder and may endanger Munchausen sufferers that have made themselves critically ill and require treatment. Children who are found to be victims of persons with Munchausen by proxy syndrome should be immediately removed from the care of the abusing parent or guardian.