Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Munchhausen Syndrome and Munchhausen Syndrome by Proxy

The Curse of the 'Syndrome'

Baron Von Munchausen, videocover
Baron Von Munchausen, videocover

What are Munchausen's Syndrome and Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP)? Well, "syndrome" is a nice term for "We haven't got a clue as to what it is!" Munchausen's Syndrome was named for Baron Von Munchausen, a teller of tall tales back in 18th century Germany . He added some quite lively details to his exploits and mishaps that caused a great deal of eye-rolling and groaning among his listeners. So Munchausen's Syndrome really means "Telling Fantastical Stories," and Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy really means "Telling Fantastical Stories About Someone Else." "Syndrome" simply means haven't got a scientifically proven (or even agreed upon) cause and diagnosis for what we observe. While the DSM-IV, the bible of psychiatric illness, has an in-depth description and explanation for the labeling of Munchausen's Syndrome as a psychological diagnosis and MSBP as a behavioral trait of certain persons, there is little recognition that people with MSBP are psychologically and behaviorally similar to all other serial killers.

Because of the confusion about Munchausen's Syndrome, no one really knows what to do with a patient who keeps showing up with complaints about her own health. After all, she isn't hurting anyone but herself, so we don't need to be that concerned about her behavior. But is Munchausen's Syndrome just a woman's "disease"? Not at all. Men are not immune to Munchausen's Syndrome, because it is is nothing but a label for a psychopath who seeks attention by using herself or himself as a foil. When these pathological behaviors are labeled "syndromes," professionals often fail to see people with Munchausen's Syndrome to be in complete control of their behavior. They are not confused or schizophrenic. They have not lost touch with reality. They know exactly what they are doing and who they are doing it to.



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