Written by Nihal Dhingra, a grade 9 student
The Munchausen Syndrome is a psychological disorder where someone pretends to be ill or creates symptoms of illness deliberately in themselves.
Why do they do this?
The main reasons why the patients create or pretend to be ill, is because they want to punish themselves or they want to seek attention and care from others. The first case of this syndrome was detected in the year 1951 by Dr. Roy Meadow when a group of patients made doctors perform surgery for no specific need.
The Munchausen syndrome was named specifically after German Cavalry officer, Baron Von Munchausen who was known for his fabricated stories.
The probable causes of this disorder are – history of abuse or neglect as a child, or early loss of a parent, the reason why most of the victims of this disorder are children. Most of the cases involve parents creating symptoms in the body of their children.
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy
Munchausen Syndrome by proxy is when caretakers of children or other individuals (like the elderly) make-up, or even cause, an injury or illness in the person under their care.
One famous case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome is that of Lacey Spears. She kept feeding her young son Garnett an excessive amount of salt. Lacey’s intention was to keep Garnett sick to acquire sympathy from people around her. When the doctors saw the amount of sodium in the child’s body, they were alarmed. It was abnormally high and the doctors knew that something was fishy. Unfortunately, 5-year-old Garnett passed away due to the dreadfully high levels of sodium in his body.
Another case is that of Claudine Blanchard, a mother who kept her young daughter Gypsy ill. Gypsy was an absolutely healthy child, whereas Claudine wanted to convince the doctors otherwise. She went to the extent of shaving off Gypsy’s hair to make people believe that she suffered from cancer. Claudine and Gypsy even got an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland from a charitable organization on grounds of her illness. Later, as an adult, an infuriated Gypsy conspired with her mother’s boyfriend and told him to kill her. Nick, Claudine’s boyfriend stabbed her in the back with a knife and was arrested.
Munchausen by proxy is considered a severe form of abuse. A few of the cases have been cured by psychotherapy over long periods of time, but the rest of the cases are either hard to detect or cure. Although this is a very rare syndrome, it is very brutal and can ruin the lives of many innocent human beings.
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