Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy — A Serious Disorder


Munchausen Syndrome is a well-known psychological disorder in which the sufferer pretends to have an illness, disease, or psychological problem in order to get attention. The name of the disorder derives from a certain Baron Munchausen, who told fantastic and completely fictitious stories about himself and his adventures. Despite its amusing title, it is a serious psychological disorder. It is often referred to as "hospital addiction syndrome," since those suffering from the disorder often go back to the hospital with their exaggerated or even completely made-up ailments.

A slightly less well-known variant of this disorder is Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which the sufferer, rather than staging his or her own fictitious medical problem, inflates injury or illness on another person, in order to get either attention or some other benefit. It is most frequently exhibited by caregivers, and in many cases constituents long-term child abuse if it ispetrated against children. In most cases, the caregiver is a parent, spouse, guardian, and the victim is either a child or a helpless adult in the perpetrator's care.

Although most cases involve actual physical ailments, ranging from broken bones to poisoning, it is not unheard of for person suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy to fabric conditions that appear to indicate psychological disorder. This is sometimes colloquially referred to as "gaslighting" someone, after the popular movie from the 1940s.

There are a few tell-tale signs which indicate Munchausen syndrome by proxy, namely:

  • The victim exhibits medical problems which persist meticulous treatment, or which develop along an unusual and puzzling course.
  • The results of medical testing of the victim are unusual or even physically impossible.
  • The caregiver exhibits a marked knowledge of medical terms and other pieces of the medical field, which fascinated by the hospital environment, or sees particularly curious interested in the problems of other people being treated at the hospital.
  • The caregiver seems suspiciously unwilling to leave the victim's side, or sees to require as much attention as the person with the actual medical problem.
  • The caregiver is strangely calm despite the serious health issues the victim is facing.
  • Often the perpetrator is either notably supportive of the physician and the hospital staff, or alternately constantly deriding them and requesting transfer to a more prestigious facility.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a serious mental health problem which can result in child abuse and family hardship. To learn more about family law, visit .

Joseph Devine