Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is a mental disorder. People with Munchausen syndrome cause illness to get sympathy and medical care. The term “by proxy” means that they cause illness in others. Victims may be children too young to talk or understand what the person with MSBP is doing to them. Victims may also be elderly or disabled.
The exact cause of this disorder is not known. The disorder is most common in people who:
People with MSBP may feel insecure, uncertain, lonely, and depressed. A mother may believe that the ill child will bring a closer relationship with the spouse.
Over 90% of people with MSBP are mothers. However, fathers, day care providers, and healthcare professionals may also have this disorder. Some signs of MBSP include:
Diagnosis is very difficult because dishonesty is a part of this disorder. MSBP is usually diagnosed by gathering evidence, such as filming the person abusing the victim in a hospital room.
The main goal is to protect potential victims. Once this goal is met, MSBP may be treated with psychotherapy.
Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) may help identify and change views the person has of herself, the world, and the future. This therapy helps the person recognize unhealthy ways of thinking. Family therapy may help families to better understand the person with MSBP and their need for attention.
There are no medicines to treat this disorder. However, medicine may help treat depression or anxiety that may go along with MSBP.
Many people with this disorder do not get help until they are caught by the police. This disorder results in pain, torture, or death for the victims of the person with MBSP.
If you suspect that someone you know has MSBP, get help right away. If you're not sure who to call, look in the front of your phone book for listings under child abuse, Department of Social Services, or Department of Human Services. You can also call your local law enforcement agency if you think the victim is in immediate danger.
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