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Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy

How Common Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy?

There are no reliable statistics regarding the number of people in the U.S. who suffer from MSP, and it is difficult to assess how common the disorder is because many cases go undetected.

How Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy Diagnosed?

Diagnosing MSP is very difficult because of the dishonesty that is involved. Doctors must rule out any possible physical illness as the cause of the child's symptoms before a diagnosis of MSP can be made.

If a physical cause of the symptoms is not found, a thorough review of the child's medical history, as well as a review of the family history and the mother's medical history (many have Munchausen syndrome themselves) may provide clues to suggest MSP. Remember, it is the adult, not the child, who is diagnosed with MSP.

How Is Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy Treated?

The first concern in MSP is to ensure the safety and protection of any real or potential victims. This may require that the child be placed in the care of another. In fact, managing a case involving MSP often requires a team that includes a social worker, foster care organizations, and law enforcement, as well as doctors.

Successful treatment of people with MSP is difficult because those with the disorder often deny there is a problem. In addition, treatment success is dependent on the person telling the truth, and people with MSP tend to be such accomplished liars that they begin to have trouble telling fact from fiction.

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) generally focuses on changing the thinking and behavior of the individual with the disorder (cognitive-behavioral therapy). The goal of therapy for MSP is to help the person identify the thoughts and feelings that are contributing to the behavior, and to learn to form relationships that are not associated with being ill.

What Is the Outlook for Victims of People With Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy?

This disorder can lead to serious short- and long-term complications, including continued abuse, multiple hospitalizations, and the death of the victim. (Research suggests that the death rate for victims of MSP is about 10%.) In some situations, a child victim of MSP learns to relate getting attention to being sick and develops Munchausen syndrome themselves.

What Is the Outlook for People With Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy?

In general, MSP is a very difficult disorder to treat and often requires years of therapy and support.

In addition, MSP is considered a form of child abuse, which is a criminal offense.

Can Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy Be Prevented?

There is no known way to prevent this disorder.

 

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 23, 2014

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