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just mary

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Just a quick question. I was watching a TV show last night and it discussed a mental illness called manchusen syndrome (I apologize if I didn't spell it right). Basically, the character in the show would make herself physically ill in order to get attention. Is it unusual for people to "make-up" a mental illness in order to see a therapist, and if she did, wouldn't she have a mental illness (manchusen syndrome) just not the one she was "making-up".

I guess I just wonder about myself sometimes, maybe I'm not depressed or an alcoholic, I just want the attention.
 

David Baxter

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I suppose some of the distinction is semantic but Munchausen Syndrome is sort of like hypochondria - the individual invents symptoms in order to gain the attention and sympathy of others especially in the medical or mental health profession. This is one of the so-called Factitious Disorders. It's not a mental illness per se, or at least not in the vernacular sense - it's perhaps more like a neurosis or personality disorder.

A more pernicious and dangerous version of this is called Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. In this case, the individual invents or creates symptoms in another person, often a child, in order to gain attention and sympathy.

More information on these disorders here:

http://www.google.com/search?source...LG,GGLG:2005-35,GGLG:en&q=munchausen+syndrome
 

Peanut

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I suppose some of the distinction is semantic but Munchausen Syndrome is sort of like hypochondria - the individual invents symptoms in order to gain the attention and sympathy of others especially in the medical or mental health profession.

Wouldn't hypochondria be more like if someone actually thought they had an illness, not that they were making it up or consciously pretending? I see hypochondria as more of an anxiety thing than an attention seeking thing. Many hypochondriacs are obviously very distressed and do a lot to try to avoid getting sick...wouldn't you say?
 

David Baxter

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You may be right. I can't say that personally I've ever seen a case of Munchausen's Syndrome, by proxy or not.

I don't doubt that the syndrome exists but I suspect it's more rare than the press and the literature would suggest. I remember years ago at a Grand Rounds hearing a number of psychiatrists and residents get really excited because they thought they'd found a case and thinking they were seeing what they wanted to see - sort of the "disorder of the month".

I also wonder whether some cases of hard to diagnose illness in adult or child may be misdiagnosed as Munchausen or Munchausen by proxy...
 

comfortzone

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Sep 4, 2005
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I evaluated someone with this disorder. She met the criteria and she had a history of it. I won't go into the details but this person would have made an alarm go off in your head if you could have seen and heard the history and read the different reports about her. I have another case of it here. We are concerned for the child as he was a failure to thrive baby. Thank goodness the medical doctor is keeping things in place for him. He had lost weight to a dangerous level; however, he started developmental therapy where he receives adequate food and he has been able to maintain his weight. It is a difficult case. It is a difficult diagnosis but there are those that are more visible than others. Otherwise I have not seen it outside of these two experiences.
 

Mashka

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So, its kind of a paradox. By the person inventing a disorder for themself---thats actually the disorder. Is that right?
 

almost50

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I was called into court to testify against a woman who was my son's caregiver and a former student of mine. It was suspected that the woman was exhibiting signs of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. A CHIPS petition (Child in Need of Protection or Services) was filed against her and her children removed from her care until she was evaluated by a psychiatrist. The determination was BPD and not Munchausen's (I imagine Munchausen Syndrome is it's difficult to identify with any degree of certainty.)

Needless to say, I had removed my child from her care once she was being investigated. I also began to worry that might she might have used my child as her proxy as he was taken to the emergency room twice while in her care for acute asthma attacks. Then, of course, I started to worry about possible abuse...

Otherwise, she was a great person...
 

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