Münchausen syndrome

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Münchausen Syndrome is a mental illness in which a person repeatedly fakes disease, illness, or psychological trauma to get attention or sympathy from others. It is sometimes called hospital addiction syndrome, thick chart syndrome, or hospital hopper syndrome.

A related mental illness is Munchausen Syndrome by proxy. People with this condition abuse another person, usually a child, in order to get sympathy or attention for themselves. For example, a parent might make their own child sick in order to get attention and sympathy from friends and medical professionals.

Description[change | change source]

People with Munchausen Syndrome exaggerate or create symptoms of mental or physical illness. Some people with Munchausen make up detailed stories about medical problems they have had, or they may fake symptoms. However, others may harm themselves in many different ways in order to make it seem like they are sick. For example, they might take laxatives to make it seem like they have diarrhea, or take blood thinners to cause bleeding. They might inject themselves with bacteria so that they get an infection. They might cut or burn themselves in order to create wounds. Sometimes, after getting medical treatment, people with Munchausen also do things to slow down or prevent their recovery - for example, by ripping out stitches.

The goal of this behavior is to get treatment, attention, sympathy, and comfort from medical professionals. For a person with Munchausen, being a patient feels familiar and comfortable. This meets a deep psychological need that the person has.

There are several risk factors for Munchausen (things which make it more likely for a person to develop the condition). Munchausen is more common in people who:

  • Went through some kind of trauma during childhood
  • Had a serious illness during childhood
  • Did not have their emotional needs met during childhood, because a parent or caregiver had a physical or mental illness
  • Wanted to work in a medical job, but failed
  • Have a personality disorder
  • Have low self esteem

Types of Munchausen[change | change source]

A few different types of Munchausen Syndrome have been identified. They include:

  • Arrythmogenic Munchausen, in which people fake or cause themselves to have cardiac arrythmias (where the heart beats in ways that are not normal)
  • Munchausen by Internet, in which people fake illness in online chat rooms and support groups in order to get sympathy and attention from other Internet users