What is Munchausen syndrome and how to recognize it

Medics are calledthis mental illness is simulative. That is, one in which a person simulates the symptoms of a particular physical illness: angina pectoris, allergies, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, or even cancer. And he does it so carefully that he himself begins to believe that he is sick.

The disease got its name from the name of Baron Munchausen – the famous liar, whose fantasies sounded so detailed and believable (at least for himself) that it was impossible not to believe in them.

A person with Munchausen syndrome not only lies about how they feel. He can hurt himself or hurt himself to make his suffering look as believable as possible. Or fake tests, for example by adding dirt and foreign fluids to urine samples.

If those around them do not simulate and show distrust, “Munchausen” is sincerely offended, becomes scandalous and aggressive. He can endlessly change doctors in search of someone who will finally make him the desired diagnosis.

Munchausen’s syndrome can be confused with hypochondria . But there is an important difference between them. If with hypochondria a person worries about himself, then with Munchausen’s syndrome the main goal is those around him. The performance is done in many ways for them.

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Where does Munchausen syndrome come from?

Commonly accepted today are considered three versions.

1. Consequence of lack of attention and care in childhood

Moreover, a critical flaw. This disorder often develops against the background of a once-severe mental trauma. For example, through childhood abuse or outright neglect of the child’s needs.

Such a person has learned: to be left without attention, sympathy, pity is like death. Therefore, he feigns illness in order to at least in this way scratch out the necessary portion of care and warmth for himself.

Unfortunately, simply surrounding Munchausen with care will not help. This syndrome is an already formed and persistent mental disorder.

Most often Munchausen syndrome suffer women aged 20–40 and unmarried men aged 30–50.

2. Consequence of overprotection in childhood

There is some evidence that people who were sick a lot during childhood or adolescence are more likely to develop Munchausen syndrome.

As adults, they associate childhood memories with feelings of care and support. So they try to bring back that feeling of security by pretending to be sick.

3. Symptom of other mental disorders

This disease is closely related to other personality disorders – anxiety , narcissistic, antisocial ( sociopathy ) – and speaks of a general mental illness.

How to recognize Munchausen syndrome

To make this diagnosis is a rather difficult task. The reason is in the simulation, lies and reservations that the patient envelops his condition with.

However, some symptoms that make it highly likely to suggest Munchausen syndrome are still exists:

  1. Conflicting medical history. There are complaints of symptoms, but examination and tests do not confirm the presence of any physical ailment.
  2. The man was caught faking tests or trying to get sick: for example, he was noticed rubbing dirt into the wound. Or, let’s say, is taking medications that can cause symptoms of a particular ailment.
  3. Symptoms are most often seen when the patient is not being observed. A person may talk about fainting or seizures, but they always “happened at night” or “yesterday.”
  4. Treatment does not lead to results and makes one suspect that the patient is simply not fulfilling the doctor’s prescription.
  5. Rich history of requests for help. The man has already bypassed ten doctors in different clinics, but nowhere was he helped.
  6. Extensive medical knowledge: a person pours out terms and quotes descriptions of diseases from medical textbooks.
  7. A tendency to easily agree to any kind of surgery and wellness.
  8. Striving to get inpatient treatment: “it is more convenient in the hospital than at home.”
  9. The doctor notices possible mental problems in the patient.

Already 1-2 symptoms are enough to suspect Munchausen’s syndrome. And if there are 3 or more of them, then the diagnosis becomes almost obvious. However, each case requires an individual approach and diagnosis.

How to help someone with Munchausen syndrome

This is an even more difficult task than making a diagnosis. Most victims of Munchausen syndrome refuse to admit they have a mental problem. And, accordingly, they do not want to participate in its solution.

However, acknowledging the problem is a necessary step. If it is not there, then the expertsrecommendabsolutely all doctors, who have “Munchausen”, should reduce contacts with him to a minimum. This is due to the fact that the relationship between doctor and patient must be based on trust. If the doctor is not sure that the person is following his recommendations, he cannot continue any treatment.

Family members and friends of the Munchausen play an important role in this phase. Their task is to gently help a person realize his condition and agree that it needs to be corrected.

Further treatment for Munchausen’s syndrome is psychotherapy . The specialist, using various techniques, will try to change the thinking and behavior of the patient in order to help him get rid of obsessive thoughts about illness and his own uselessness.

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