Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) -- or Munchausen by proxy -- is a psychological disorder marked by attention-seeking behavior by a caregiver through those who are in their care.
MSP is a relatively rare behavioral disorder. It affects a primary caretaker, often the mother. The person with MSP gains attention by seeking medical help for exaggerated or made-up symptoms of a child in his or her care. As health care providers strive to identify what's causing the child's symptoms, the deliberate actions of the mother or caretaker can often make the symptoms worse.
People with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) can be witty, charming, and fun to be around -- but they also lie and exploit others. ASPD makes people uncaring. Someone with the disorder may act rashly, destructively, and unsafely without feeling guilty when their actions hurt other people.
Experts don’t agree on whether antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy (i.e. "a psychopath") are the same thing. Either way, ASPD is uncommon, affecting just .6% of the population.
The person with MSP does not seem to be motivated by a desire for any type of material gain. While health care providers are often unable to identify the specific cause of the child's illness, they may not suspect the mother or caretaker of doing anything to harm the child. In fact the caregiver often appears to be very loving and caring and extremely distraught over her child's illness.
People with MSP may create or exaggerate a child's symptoms in several ways. They may simply lie about symptoms, alter tests (such as contaminating a urine sample), falsify medical records, or they may actually induce symptoms through various means, such as poisoning, suffocating, starving, and causing infection.
What Are the Symptoms of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy?
Certain characteristics are common in a person with MSP, including: