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Munchausen syndrome by proxy: when making up symptoms is a form of child abuse

Munchausen syndrome is a disorder caused by Faking or provoking symptoms Appearing sick in front of doctors – endangers the health of the patient. It often leads to complex treatments and interventions that are completely unnecessary.

But there is a variant of this problem that aggravates the situation, because it threatens not the health of the person, but the other, vulnerable, under their care, which is usually a child: own child. This is a form of child abuse called Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MPS).

What happens is that the adult “invents, fakes and falsifies clinical symptoms in his child until he becomes a patient in the eyes of doctors and pediatricians.” That’s how one explains it A review of studies Published in 2016 by experts from Salamanca and Madrid.

This problem appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), edited by the American Psychiatric Association, and the main reference source on the subject, entitled: Actual disorder imposed on another.

However, it continues to be called by a name that refers to Carl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron of MunchausenA German who lived in the 18th century and who became famous because no one believed the incredible adventures in which he claimed to have played.

Addiction and the need for recognition

what causes it There is no specific answer. Often people with this syndrome have “A Great need for recognitionAnd in fact they are “seemingly selfless mothers who refuse to care for their children,” as explained article It was prepared by the scientists of the University of the Basque Country.

Those mothers would be victims of some kind of addiction. This is what the authors of the above-mentioned meta-analysis suggest: the psychopathological profile of these people “matches Addictive disorderBecause they have a compulsive behavior to seek out the hospital environment, which gives them a high degree of satisfaction and reward”.

The victims, in the end, are the children. PMS usually occurs in cases up to five yearsHowever, it can also occur in adolescents and even the elderly (in this case, the sufferers of the syndrome are no longer parents, but children who play the role of caregivers).

Signs of possible Munchausen syndrome by proxy

What are the key indicators that might lead doctors to suspect that the children they care for are not really sick, but victims of an adult with Munchausen syndrome? A investigation Published by Argentinian scientists in 2021, the main ones are listed:

– There are signs and symptoms described by the adolescent strange or inappropriate. In addition, such symptoms appear only in the presence of an adult and disappear when this person is not there.

  • Clinical diagnosis does not match with the conclusions of tests and laboratory analysis.
  • treatment they do not workThey don’t even make improvements. In case of improvement, in most cases, an adult does not show joy or relief when informed.
  • An adult often insists that certain medical proceduresHospitalizations, interventions, etc., sometimes with great knowledge of the terms and practices he talks about.
  • A child has one or more siblings with either unusual disease or who died of an unexplained cause, such as sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Sometimes an adult can to disclose publicly The alleged illness of their child through the media or social networks of the Internet to obtain some material benefit or – above all – because of the already mentioned need for recognition that these people experience.
  • There is an adult history of associated disorders somatization or relatives with rare diseases.

How do people with this syndrome behave?

Another common behavior for people with PMS is to teach children what aches, pains, and other symptoms to report to their doctors and encourage them to express them.

of two The most common symptoms Children are likely to experience: bleeding, bruising, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, seizures, skin rashes, hematuria (blood in the urine), infections, apnea, foreign bodies in the digestive system, poisoning, and even reports of sexual abuse. .

As noted, these people not only lie when they talk about symptoms that never actually existed, but they can also falsify evidence so that analyzes support their versions and even He will hurt his own children for them to develop these symptoms.

They could, for example – as explained United States National Library of Medicine– adding blood to the child’s urine or feces, Deprives him of food To make it seem like you can’t gain weight, give you medicine that causes vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, or give you an infection through an IV.

The aforementioned study in Argentina indicates that in cases of alleged sexual abuse that were actually fabricated by people with PMS, children Physical injuries in the genitals “Which are not commonly found in confirmed diagnoses of child sexual abuse.”

Getting to the diagnosis

he unusual Diagnosing this syndrome is the fact that the mother or other caregiver of the child is lying or provoking the symptoms, compounded by the fact that this adult usually has the profile of a selfless person looking out for their child’s well-being. hard.

According to the studies cited, it takes an average of thirteen months from the first symptoms children experience to being diagnosed with PMS. At that moment, moreover, A work Most scientists in the United States have iatrogenic signs, ie unwanted damage due to medical intervention.

There are two ways to reach a diagnosis. One of them is exclusion: in case of reasonable suspicion, the child is removed from the mother or caregiver to see if the symptoms persist or disappear in her absence.

The second is inclusion, which involves documenting abuse hidden cameras. The latter is very valuable when strong and irrefutable evidence is needed, however it may be It is ethically reprehensibleBecause this involves exposing the child to pain again.

For the rest, a PMS child usually needs both physical and mental health care, as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder are often present.

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Source: El Diario





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