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Symptoms and Signs of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Definition, Characteristics, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Doctor's Notes on Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Definition, Characteristics, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Munchausen syndrome, also referred to as factitious disorder, is a mental illness in which a person intentionally fakes, simulates, worsens, or self-induces injury or illness in order to be treated as a medical patient. The main purpose is to gain attention by assuming the role of a “sick” person. Munchausen by proxy syndrome is a related condition in which caregivers fake symptoms by lying or causing injury to someone else, often a child, and then want to be with that person in a hospital or medical setting.

Individuals with Munchausen syndrome intentionally produce or exaggerate symptoms. Symptoms of Munchausen syndrome include a reported dramatic medical history of serious illness, often with inconsistent details of the problem, symptoms that fit a diagnosis too perfectly or lack of signs that accompany symptoms (for example, no sign of dehydration yet the person complains of diarrhea and vomiting), symptoms that change or worsen once a treatment is begun, history of seeking medical care at numerous doctors, offices, or hospitals, an eagerness to undergo exams, tests, and procedures, a reluctance to let health care professionals contact previous health care professionals or family and friends, and evidence of multiple surgical scars.

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

REFERENCE:

Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

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