One of the most befuddling mental illnesses is known as Munchausen Syndrome. This condition causes patients to fake sickness. The primary desire for their faking is to attract attention and adoration by their family, peers, and community. Sadly, it often works until the patient is found to have no other medical conditions besides the mental illness. Most individuals that have Munchausen Syndrome go from doctor to doctor in search of a cure for fake symptoms and fake illnesses that are not in existence. If the person lives alone he or she may be able to easily lie to relatives about their condition. It is not uncommon for someone with this psychiatric illness to even fake diseases such as cancer.
Another type of this syndrome is called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. This condition causes an adult to hurt another individual they are close to in order to gain attention. For example, a parent may abuse their child so that the child and family are given money, gifts, and attention by others. This type of behavior is considered abusive. Those diagnosed with Munchausen by Proxy are likely to target the elderly or mentally challenged, and children who are unable to defend themselves or describe what happened to them.
In modern times another condition, known as Munchausen by Internet, is when a patient feigns sickness or disease through web forums. This person may even go as far as developing web pages testifying their illness. In many cases they set up a donation system to receive money to pay for medical bills and treatments for a cure. In reality they are perfectly fine and only want money to spend on other things. These people will post images of themselves looking sick, and may go as far as to use make up to look even more ill. There are a few cases of this happening in recent years, and many more individuals are likely suffering from “Munchausen by Internet Syndrome.” These people are often known as scam artists and seek to get donations from unsuspecting people. It is very important to avoid “sick” or “ill” individuals with pity stories unless you personally know them.
The Difference between Hypochondria and Munchausen Syndrome
Hypochondria and Munchausen Syndrome are very distinct in symptoms and patient behavior. An individual with hypochondria will truly believe with all of their heart and soul that they are sick. Ironically enough, believing that you are sick long enough will actually bring on illness. An individual that has Munchausen Syndrome lies on purpose about their condition, but they cannot control themselves easily while doing so. To an outsider it is difficult to notice the differences in these. The only way to really know if they are really ill is to have a doctor positively confirm their illness.
Symptoms to Watch For
Clearly someone with Munchausen Syndrome will not seek medical help. Those that suspect a loved one has the condition should watch out for:
• Constantly changing their story.
• Being sick all of the time with a different illness.
• Begging for attention or asking for favors while sick.
• Those that seem ill but then do things that a sick person would not do, such as travel, party, and otherwise enjoy life.
• Understanding and being able to recite precise definitions of conditions.
• Medical scars and frequent medical bills.
• Previous problems with loved ones or family.
• Unwilling to share information with medical professionals so that treatment may be allowed.
• Disagreeing to see a therapist of any kid.
• Unwilling to take medication and try other treatment options.
• Changing their symptoms or disease conditions quickly from time to time.
Munchausen Syndrome Risks to Be Aware Of
Individuals with this condition are at a risk to themselves and others around them. Sometimes pathological liars may go as far as murder to get rid of any evidence against them or to prevent people from finding out the truth. Munchausen Syndrome is a serious condition and patients may begin purposefully hurting themselves to further prove that they are truly sick and ill. People that go this far may throw themselves out of moving cars, out of windows, or perform dangerous stunts to break a bone or damage an organ. In some cases women are known to purposefully get pregnant and then induce a miscarriage to receive sympathy and pity.
It is extremely important that these individuals get treated quickly to prevent any harm that could be done to those nearby or involved in the person’s life. By getting help, the persons with Munchausen Syndrome can avoid causing dangerous damages to their body and much more. It is very important to look into what can help treat these individuals so that they can better their lives and the lives of others around them. Going untreated is very dangerous and people can die in attempting to hurt themselves which is not beneficial to their cause for the damages since they will simply be forgotten in time.
Treatment for Those with Munchausen Syndrome
Individuals that have this mental disorder must first be willing to seek treatment and accept the help that is being offered. They may try to fool the doctor into believing a real illness is occurring. In some cases a clever individual may actually be able to fool a psychiatrist. These types of people are usually very dangerous.
During the initial stages of treatment a doctor will examine the patient to determine their medical history, as well as their childhood history. Most people that have Munchausen Syndrome were neglected or abused as children. Therefore, as adults, they seek out people that will provide them with the attention they missed out on. This can extend to relatives, love and relationship interests, friends and even complete strangers. The possibility of the doctor or therapist to identify what causes the Munchausen Syndrome can really help to treat their patients.
It is important for a psychiatrist to fully examine every aspect of the person and to carefully dissect their personality and behaviors. A misdiagnosis can be risky and harmful to the person. The doctor will more than likely begin looking at underlying mental illnesses. A person with Munchausen may also have borderline personality disorder, bipolar, mood and anxiety disorders, or cognitive problems. These conditions definitely require special care.
Depending on how severe their condition is and how long they have had it, the doctor will choose a specific treatment plan. Medication and therapy are two of the main options and when paired they work extremely well to providing a return to normal. Some individuals with really severe Munchausen Syndrome may have a very difficult time returning to normal so their treatment course may be increased over time to try and give a more positive outcome for the individual.
Patients that do not wish to be treated cannot be forcibly treated. If the patient is a risk to himself then it is legal for the doctor to demand hospitalization to protect the interests of the person and his peers. Those who do end up going untreated may try and be in hiding or only try to affect certain people for attention which may make it possible for the condition to go undiagnosed for a long period of time.