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Munchhausen by Proxy: Abuse for the Sake of Attention

Updated on August 14, 2013
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Anan is an online blogger and private consultant since 2009 in the areas of relationships and interfaith spirituality.

According to doctors, Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS) is an uncommon condition that involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker.

When I was in college, I had to do a paper on the subject. I had never heard this term before that day. As I started the research phase of my paper, I found documented cases of this "condition".

One of the most harmful forms of child abuse,and confusing too. MBPS was named after Baron Von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for telling tall tale stories. The term is used to encase a very disturbing mental illness.

What characterizes MBPS

As far fetched as it seams, a person with Munchhausen, is caring for a constantly ill child typically between the age of 0 to 13 years old.

Not to confuse it with a child that has a documented chronic condition. The patient presents with mysterious symptoms that seams to get worse or have a complete change in pathology.

The visits to the doctor and to the emergency room are more and more frecuent. But the child never gets better. This gives the mother the attention she craves, and in return keeps doing it even if it means their child's life.

Case of MSBP

Proof of wrong doing

Is extremely difficult to prove a case of MBPS. The doctors and other health care providers have to establish motive, opportunity, in other words have probable cause that the parent or care giver purposely caused harm to the child with the intent to bring sympathy and attention from others.

As a nurse, it does not crossed my mind to look for signs at first glance. How can we, parents are supposed to care for their kids not make them sick for an attention fix. But we do keep record of "Frequent Fliers ", Those faces that we see almost every week with the same symptoms or another set of ailments are recorded in our memory. Then we make sure to make the annotations necessary to establish a pattern.

Behind closed doors

To be very honest, this is a very serious and very disturbing condition. Even today, I can't wrap my mind around this condition! I chose a case study regarding this woman that after killing seven of her own children ( The coroner thought it was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) was caught after a police officer noticed the pattern. HELLO!!!

My question is how to prove if indeed is MSBP? Kids get sick, kids are abused, but how can anyone proves that a mother abuses the child to get attention?! Most if not all child abusers keep the abuse under wraps to keep other in the dark. But a person with this condition seeks help for the child and for herself. Is very complicated to understand and even more difficult to prove.

Opposing to the claim of MSBP

Do you think this is a real mental illness, or just an excuse to get away with murder?

See results

Just scratching the surface

This is a very serious matter. The specifics of this condition are so wide and controversial that they would need a series of articles to go over the key points in regards to the disease. As any mental illness, is has to be assess and documented separately so to not generalize.

Many have proposed that this is just a theory and not to be confused with plain abuse, or to accuse a concerned, loving and caring parent of the untimely death of a very sick child. Could you tell the difference?

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      Robbie 2 years ago

      Furrealz? That's mavorleusly good to know.

    • profile image

      Tish 2 years ago

      Thanks for your thtsghou. It's helped me a lot.

    • ananceleste profile image
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      Anan Celeste 4 years ago from California

      Hi xanzacow;

      You are stronger than me my dear. I can't imagine myself working pediatrics or NICU. I am just not strong enough. I always worked the E.R. , here we see very disturbing stuff. I never wanted to believe it until I saw it. Still, my mind did not wanted to believe it. It's just plain crazy. Blessings.

    • xanzacow profile image

      Cynthia 4 years ago from North Myrtle Beach, SC

      Great hub. Being a nurse on a partially pediatric floor for 11 years, I have seen only two "suspected" cases of this. Very sad that a mother would do this to their child for attention.

    • ananceleste profile image
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      Anan Celeste 5 years ago from California

      Nice to hear from you eye say! Thank you!

    • eye say profile image

      eye say 5 years ago from Canada

      interesting hub, I had no idea!

    • ananceleste profile image
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      Anan Celeste 5 years ago from California

      Indeed thumbi7; you are right, is the product of a very disturbed mind. Thanks for sharing.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 5 years ago from India

      OMG! This is terrible.

      The parent must be having some psychological problems.

      A parent with a healthy mind cannot harm his/her child.

      Thanks for introducing me to this topic

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      This is a topic of great interest to me as an advocate for the healthy well-being of the total child. I am astounded by the hidden factors in caregiving that allude to feigned illness. I watched the Bush family case and found it to help prove Manchausen is a real illness. Thanks for sharing. I have learned much through this hub. Voted up!

    • ananceleste profile image
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      Anan Celeste 5 years ago from California

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. I still have a difficult time processing this information.But is better to be informed than in the dark.

    • Marsei profile image

      Sue Pratt 5 years ago from New Orleans

      Very interesting and thoroughly researched. I have always had a curiosity about this mental condition.

      I'm often up late at night and watch Forensic Files and such and have seen a couple of shows about real cases like this. They are so terrifying because on the surface, the parent usually seems loving and caring. When one thinks about how sick they really are, it's

      terrifying. Lots of food for thought here. Gives you a tendency to watch carefully when a child seems to get ill and recover often and for no obvious, tangible reason. It's great to see something different from the norm on Hub Pages!

      marsei

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      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      what a difficult topic this is for someone who was once a social worker... it never seemed as black and white as it did in the movies, and I often felt compassion for the mother who was often a victim of horrific childhood abuse, etc., herself, and who "appeared" to be very bonded to her child. Thanks for presenting this topic here Anaceleste. Voted you up!

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 5 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      Very interesting and intriguing hub. I saw MSBP first hand, and it is scary that someone would do this to their child. There is also the illness of just Munchhausen, as to which people do harm to themselves for attention. Voted up, interesting and useful.