Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Everybody has heard about physical, verbal and mental child abuse, but few know about the child abuse that stems from a parent’s or guardian’s need for attention and/or sympathy. This form of abuse, called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, involves a parent or guardian either making false claims that his/her child is sick, or purposely making his/her child sick to gain attention and sympathy. Both forms of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy are dangerous for the child in question.

Symptoms of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy:

  • A child seems to suffer from recurring sickness that cannot be explained.
  • A child seems to always be sick but fails to respond to treatments that are usually effective.
  • A child’s symptoms seem to disappear when they are not around a specific caregiver/parent.
  • There is evidence of a parent/caregiver having fabricated a medical history/tampered with the child’s medical history.
  • Normal medical test results do not reassure a parent/caregiver; they are moved only by irregular test results.

Prognosis for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Since causes and symptoms vary from case to case depending on what the abuser does, it is difficult to anticipate the exact effects of the syndrome; it is very rare disorder and is therefore not completely understood by medical professionals. A caregiver may induce symptoms of illness in his/her child by contaminating his/her blood, withholding nutrition, giving the child drugs to induce illness, etc. Since the caregiver is usually very helpful and attentive around doctors, it is difficult to diagnose Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and caregivers with the Syndrome are extremely hard to isolate. One thing that usually causes suspicions to arise is the child’s condition never changing around doctors or nurses, but only around the caregiver. At times, a caregiver may report factitious behavioral disorders in his/her child (such as ADHD) rather than physical ones. In addition, there have been instances in which a child has begun to receive medical attention for a valid reason and the abuser has begun to create false reports after this to continue the medical attention. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is extremely dangerous for the child being abused and can be life-threatening. It occurs because of psychological problems in the adult, and the abuse is generally done for the sake of attention or sympathy.

Treatment for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Once an individual with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is recognized, it is imperative that the abused child is removed at once from his/her care. The child must be protected and correctly treated for whichever complications and ailments the caregiver may have inflicted upon him/her. The abusive caregiver should not be accused of wrongdoing directly, but should rather be offered aid; the syndrome must be reported to authorities because it is a form of child abuse. Prolonged psychiatric counseling is recommended for the abuser; the child may require counseling as well. There is no known cure for the syndrome, and psychiatric counseling is the best option for the abuser.

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