Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy - Topic Overview
What are the clues that a person may have Munchausen syndrome by proxy?
Checking a child's medical records for past tests, treatments, and hospital stays may help a doctor or nurse find out if a health problem is real.
Doctors or nurses may suspect a problem when:
- A child has a repeated or unusual illness,
and no reason can be found.
- The child doesn't get better, even with
treatments that should help. Symptoms only occur when the caregiver is with or
has recently been with the child. But symptoms get better or go away when the
caregiver is not there or is being closely watched.
- The other
parent (usually the father) is not involved in the child's treatment, even
though the child's condition may be serious.
- A caregiver suddenly
changes doctors and lies about prior testing and treatment.
test results don't reassure the caregiver. And he or she may be strangely calm or
happy when the child's condition is getting worse.
- The caregiver is
seen (or videotaped or recorded) harming the child or causing
- Another child in the family has had unexplained illness
How is it treated?
Child protective services, law enforcement, and doctors are all involved in treatment for Munchausen
syndrome by proxy. Caregivers who have this condition need long-term
counseling. They may resist treatment or deny that
there is a problem. Medicines are used only when the caregiver has another
health problem, such as anxiety disorder, along with MSBP.
after treatment, caregivers may repeat their behavior. So doctors, counselors,
and family members need to closely watch how the caregiver interacts with his or her
For victims, the first step is to protect the child by
moving him or her into safe custody. Then a doctor will monitor the child for symptoms. Most
of the time, the child's symptoms stop after the child is away from the
caregiver. Some children need counseling or other help.
What should you do if you think someone has Munchausen syndrome by proxy?
MSBP is child abuse. If you suspect that a child is a
victim, don't confront the suspected caregiver. It might make the problem
worse. Instead, think about these options:
- Keep a journal of the child's symptoms and
other related events.
- Talk with your doctor about your
- Report your concerns to your local child welfare agency.
You can make a report without using your name (anonymous).