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Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy

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What Causes Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy?

The exact cause of MSP is not known, but researchers are looking at the roles of biological and psychological factors in its development. Some theories suggest that a history of abuse or neglect as a child, or the early loss of a parent may be factors in its development. Some evidence suggests that major stress, such as marital problems, can trigger MSP.

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.

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