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Munchausen Syndrome: The Deadly Mental Illness that Accounts for 360,000 Annual Hospitalizations


munchausen symdromePsychiatric literature indicates that approximately 360,000 hospital admissions in the U.S. annually are the direct result of self-inflicted medical trauma related to Munchausen Syndrome.

People who silently suffer with Munchausen Syndrome have been known to cause physical disease by injecting harmful bacteria directly into their veins so that they must go to the hospital,

16 thoughts on “Munchausen Syndrome: The Deadly Mental Illness that Accounts for 360,000 Annual Hospitalizations

  • October 23, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for this article. It is very inspriational. I feel that too often we put everyone into little boxes, expecting the same results from the same approach. Each person requires something different in order to heal and I think being open to alternative approaches is necessary.

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  • October 23, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Also as debilitating is Munchausen by proxy which I experienced as a child. My mother was obsessed with medical information having once considered becoming a doctor, getting pregnant with me, then pressuring me to become a doctor.

    I do not know what caused my many childhood illnesses that were initially attributed to allergies then became infections my mother did not allow doctors to treat. She claimed I was allergic to penicillin and all antibiotics causing the infections to linger, requiring her to provide constant varying, sometimes intrusive, treatments. She made demands at school calling for special treatment and embarrassing me and isolating me from my peers. At one point an internist challenged her, saying I could not possibly be allergic to ALL antibiotics. My mother never took me back to that doctor. As I have received mental health care throughout my adulthood, I realized the problem. It was so subtle. My mother appeared to be a caring parent who would go to any lengths to make me “better” except to allow me to take prescribed medication. My mother’s mental illness became unmanageable and she died by suicide in 1995.

    Family members and loved ones of children who are chronically and constantly ill should learn more about Munchausen by proxy. I do not know how one would intervene. Perhaps the author of this blog can suggest resources.

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  • October 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    According to Chinese Medicine, the only reason why anyone gets sick, injured, have accidents is due to what you call Munchausen syndrome! Whenever someone suffers from prolonged negative emotional state and keeps going down that road, INSTEAD of understanding that this is supposed to be a temporary state of being, they will eventually suffer physically. By having certain skills, tools, and strategies, someone can be lifted out of this negative state of being, which will always affect the health. If they really want to left themselves out of it. It’s being done right now.

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  • October 23, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Sounds like an interesting yet disturbing read. I sense someone down our family chain could be suffering with this at some level. I’m also concerned by the by proxy version (that ellen has posted) as she now has a child. Have put the book on my amazon list and may have to purchase to gain more knowledge.

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    • October 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Sad to know someone in your family may be suffering from this.

      Just to clarify, my mom never actively harmed herself, except by avoiding treatment for her mental illness and ultimately taking her life.

      From what I have learned about Munchausen by proxy is the person who inflicts harm on another (usually mother/child) is seeking attention for themselves, especially affirmation they are a caring, loving, concerned and wonderful parent. As it appears with people who self-inflict, my mother came from a frighteningly abusive home where her mother was too afraid to be the “caring, loving, concerned and wonderful” parent.

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      • October 23, 2013 at 9:06 pm

        Thanks ellen. Sorry to read how you were affected by this illness.
        The family member I refer to lives in another country so it’s hard to know the facts or observe behaviour. However, with my interest and (limited) knowledge of Psychology, the family stories I hear lead me to think there could be a problem that fits the description of Munchausen Syndrome. We are talking about a young Mother with many and regular mysterious illnesses. Also attention seeking & low self esteem etc. Plus now a child that she is always taking to the doctor. Other family members just seem to let her ‘get on with it’ or now ignore her ‘cry wolf’s’!
        I will try to gain more knowledge and look for a way for intervention if necessary. Though as you mention, advice on how to intervene would be helpful. Take care & have a positive future.

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    • November 4, 2013 at 10:48 am

      See, you are already buying into this poorly writen non-factual article and are casting doubt and looking for people who have a disorder that doesn’t exist, with perhaps an exception being the author who definetly displays a few of the symptoms he has described. There is no diagnostic code for MBSP or Munchausen’s. Don’t believe everything you read.

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  • October 24, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I think i may have this after reading it, it kind of makes sense. It first started when my daughter was a baby, i had an argument with a friend then faked stomach pains, which i then felt i couldnt get out of once i was at hospital. I then got my appendix out. the latest was last year when i was pulled out of the sea by lifeboat and kept in hospital with hypothermia i have been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, have taken lots of overdoses but i have never revealed that i faked my appendix.. now im confused

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  • October 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I had one experience ( as a social worker in Child Protective Services)with a Munchausen by Proxy situation: while denying any responsibility the mother of a young child repeatedly put the child in medical harms’ way, such that there were multiple surgeries and a near deadly case of sepsis before one doctor began to suspect that the mother’s reports were suspicious. Her husband, the child’s father, was unable to believe this could be the case. She was very involved in appearing to be the world’s most concerned mother, and allying herself with medical professionals. She became an “expert” on each segment of her child’s advancing “mysterious” illness, another clue that is reported in what literature there is.

    Until the child began to get better ONLY after the mother was removed from the home, many treatment professionals were sure that she could not have done such a thing.

    The mother herself remained a mystery, in terms of how she came to be able to do this to her child. What was striking to me was how the creation of the drama had become central to her life, and how her utter lack of true empathy with her child was diametrically opposed to her presentation. She was utterly invested in being the “selfless mother with ill child that everyone at the hospital knows”; that was the only identity she projected.It was as if the child was just an extension of her ego, just a means of securing some form of caring, through any means possible.

    Do I think she knew she’d done wrong? Yes, insofar as she knew to cover it up and to try to cast blame elsewhere. What did she really feel? She never gave a clue. She was panicked, I think, at being “cast out” of her family for some period of time. But this wasn’t anyone who shared anything “real.” That to me suggests a lot of past damage.

    What happened eventually? Other than knowing that the child regained health, I have no knowledge about what happened much later.

    She did on one occasion appear with scratches that she claimed were the result of an an attack; police reported that nothing of her account made sense – not the time or place, and the marks appeared to be self inflicted.

    At the time, a psychiatrist – the kind of person who can talk to anyone about anything, really – told me about the couple of Munchausen patients he had encountered, and how resistant to psych. intervention they seemed to be. Part was because they were always in self-generated physical medical crises – the presenting problem was always a physical complaint, and things went downhill from there. He also described the consternation and fury of doctors, especially surgeons, over being “tricked” or over having their work “ruined” when patients actively sabotage their rehabilitation. From what this article says, probably their anger – and anyone who’s been maltreated, not to say severely abused, can read the slightest cues of anger – that in itself might trigger even more self abuse.
    I hadn’t thought about this for a long while. It did make me aware that while, 99% [or more] of the time, parents are reliable reporters about their children — but when they aren’t, they can can be dangerously misleading.

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  • October 30, 2013 at 10:29 am

    This is Andrea Avigal, co-author of Secrets Unraveled:Overcoming Munchausen Syndrome and I want to clarify that Munchausen Syndrome is very different than Munchausen by Proxy.

    Ten Facts About Munchausen Syndrome:
    1)Munchausen Syndrome is when someone hurts themselves to gain medical attention.
    2)Munchausen Syndrome is not the same as Munchausen by Proxy.
    3)Munchausen by Proxy is making someone else sick.
    4)Most people with Munchausen Syndrome have been abused and/or neglected as a child.
    5)There is help available and anyone can stop hurting themselves.
    6)Secrecy is the key component to Munchausen Syndrome.
    7)If you have Munchausen Syndrome, TELL SOMEONE!
    8)If you have been abused as a child get into
    therapy and tell your story.
    9)1% of all hospitalizations are due to Munchausen Syndrome.
    10)Lastly,treatment is available and a cure is possible.

    If you need help or want to share your story you can email me or Dr.Tom Hall at:
    [email protected] and if you want to learn how to stop hurting yourself I recommend reading my story.

    Help is available and I try to respond to every email in a timely fashion.

    Andrea Avigal

    Reply
  • October 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Psymom,

    I would be happy to offer information about how to confront and/or intervene for a suspected Muchausen patient. I believe in gentle confrontation with immediate resources available, particularly psychotherapy.

    Andrea Avigal

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    • October 31, 2013 at 6:13 am

      Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for taking the time to read through the comments and picking up on mine. I appreciate your help and advice. The person concerned lives in another country. In New Zealand actually, so that’s the other side of the world to me in the UK! This makes it difficult to know the current situation. Though through comments family members have made I feel there is a young mother showing signs of Muchausens. I think I should pass this information on (this article & your book) to someone closer to her in the family just to take the first steps to help and support her. Thanks again.

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      • November 2, 2013 at 12:21 pm

        Don’t hesitate to email if you need more information or have more questions.

        Andrea

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    • April 10, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      Hi Andrea,
      Can I ask do you have an email address I can contact you please? I have a long story difficult story regarding my 25 year old daughter whom I believe has this condition. She has made herself extremely ill and blind, through her illness.
      Many years of hell have taken place due to persistent lies, attention seeking behaviour in many ways, drug use, self harming, stories, constant hospitilisation etc etc.
      I would like to be able to explain as best I can. I really don’t know what to do next!
      Thankyou for reading my message
      Kind regards
      Jo

      Reply
  • October 31, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    It’s great that you’re sharing your stories and experiences here. As a psychologist and co-author of Secrets Unraveled: Overcoming Munchausen Syndrome, I can’t emphasize enough that this disorder emerges from early emotional trauma or deprivation. Severe abuse and/or neglect can lead people to resort to self-destructive behavior, like making themselves ill, to garner attention and emotional nurturance. It may be shocking to discover or hear about this behavior, but in the end what’s needed is understanding and efforts to help. One kind of help is psychotherapy with a compassionate clinician. With the right therapy relationship, it becomes possible to gradually work through early trauma, build healthier coping mechanisms and permanently let go of all self-destructive behavior.

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  • November 4, 2013 at 10:38 am

    There is no such thing as MBPS. or Munchausen Syndrome. There is no diagnosis code in the psychiatric manuel. It simply doesn’t exist. It is against the law to mention or utter the phrase “MBPS” due to yet one nore abusive use of power by Utah zealous DCFS. MBPS EQUALS attempted murder or assault. It just does not exist and I find such articles as this only fuel for the rquivalent of the Salem witch hunts. Shame on you for circulating such trah and untruths. Anyone not beleiving this post just try finding the diagnosis code for either ficticious “illness.” You should get your facts straight before continuing to sling accusations at (usually) mothers and quit fueling the hypocrasy behind this charge. I hear there’s a huge outbreak of it in Arizona. Read Psy Today Sep 2007 artticle “Unusual Suspects.” This batch of figmentation displays several of the symptoms of these “disorders.” Lies and seeking attention for yoursef top the list

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