As a physician who lost everything to this incomprehensible disease , having the insight that I do , I feel obligates me to educate the public , or at least those who want to learn about Munchausen By Proxy.
I thank God everyday that my children, now adults , have survived this vial form of child abuse. Tragically, the condition is often undetected due to the inherent deceptive nature of this disease. Gradually the courts are starting to recognize just how despicable this condition is , but unfortunately not quick enough to protect children being impacted by this abuse everyday.
I witnessed some of the most unethical behavior among many psychiatrists who chose to ignore this illness , actually knowing the abuse was going on and allowing it to continue. The stress was unbearable as physicians would actually lie to the disability insurance company as to who the real patient was. Only to find later in the medical records the physician actually stating who the “real” patient was.
To be told by a physician directly about the presence of this condition and the damage it is doing to your children and choosing to do nothing about it was emotional torture. I cannot begin to tell you the feeling of betrayal as these physicians outright lied to serve their own interest , choosing not to get involved. Morally void of the obligation to uphold the motto they swore to : “first do no harm”.
Furthermore, along the same line, in the legal sector, attorneys embrace this condition , defending such criminal conduct, as it is easily concealed and simply claimed to not have been recognized if an attempt is made to hold them accountable.
Having learned so much through the horror I went through, I decided to write an ebook to help as many people as I can and try to restore my financial situation so I can help my kids for years to come. The information I offer has come at the cost of my medical practice and literally everything I owned. Now trying to rebuild my life and get off SSDI which I shamefully had to pursue due to the emotional abuse of my children’s lives being bartered during a grueling divorce. Ironic , I know , that I should be on disability but this is so common among spouses as desperation can lead to emotional turmoil as no one understands or wants to understand and help you. Munchausen By Proxy defies comprehension, so if you are looking for a rational explanation to this disease you will not find it here.
I will reveal resources , support groups etc. that I found helpful to deal with the misery of watching my kids be abused while I could do nothing to stop it as a result of a legal system that tragically does not understand it.
A guardian report with the opinions of trained psychiatrists , decided I was to have custody of my children and a psychologist actually overruled their advice based on the conditions : “Masteryof Deceit” as my son called it.
My children now grown want justice to come to their mother and yet she continues to cause havoc and destroy lives , largely a result of her childhood abuse which was manifested by anorexia etc. , details I found out long after our marriage.
Please do not let Munchausen By Proxy go unchecked. It needs to be stopped and is truly not that difficult to prove. The problem is that individuals are unwilling to accept that such a cruel condition could exist.
Munchausen by proxy symptoms are essentially defined in terms of the actions such deceitful individuals use. My daughter at a vulnerable early teenage stage of her life was made to fear me through alienation tactics that are so sick and pitiful of the perpetrator desperately looking for attention through the abuse of his/hers own child.
Two tactics that immediately come to mind are still bothersome to me to this day. One, was the accusation when my daughter was present to say that I was not paying child support. This was devastating as my daughter was so brainwashed she would believe anything. Why shouldn’t she as it was her own mother, someone a child trusts implicitly. As I was kept from seeing my daughter through legal threats by my ex-wife this accusation would go on uncontested. To know, at the time, that my daughter was led to believe this was painful. Just one more of many munchausen by proxy symptoms.
The second tactic among many, was instilling fear in my daughter when I would come by our house to visit. Visits I made to be sure my daughter was alright. What would happen is her mother would shout “oh he is here” and rush my daughter and herself upstairs into their bedrooms. Essentially, treating me like a predator. This munchausen by proxy symptom was so clever and did indeed make my daughter fear my arrival. To have your own daughter perceive you as a threat is beyond comprehension by most loving parents. Bottom line is that no one can understand that such a horrific disease exists, tragically not even the family courts.
The dependency created would cause my daughter to ultimately sleep in the same bed with her mother . When you know this is just another munchausen by proxy symptom it is hard to put into words how one could be capable of such a cruel game of psychological manipulation.
Munchausen by proxy symptoms are many and so cleverly done that they fool even the best psychologist or psychiatrist. The number of mental health individuals in our family crisis were many and sadly recruited by my ex to add credibility to her vial fabricated stories.
John Copper MD
As was the case in my situation, frequently the perpetrators with Munchausen Syndrome are in or are very familiar with the medical field. Their knowledge the medical field makes it even easier for them to use their cunning ways to achieve their deceptive goals.
The nursing field is often where such perpetrators are found as they have the knowledge of patient care and know how to disguise deviant acts. In my case it was not the nursing field but another field that gave ample opportunity to learn the clever vial acts that can be carried out in the field of medicine.
On two occasions my daughter was taken to the emergency room and it was clear to the staff what was going. Her mother talked in such a way that suggested she was so caring while my daughter , so insightful , simply rolled her eyes listening to the sheer nonsense her mother was able to fabricate. As a physician , the emergency room personnel empathized with me regarding my situation , acknowledging what was going on but shamefully did nothing to stop it. To anyone in the medical field who had sufficient time to observe the mother-daughter interaction , the diagnosis of munchausen syndrome by proxy was more than apparent.
Shamefully I saw countless times where medical personnel , including psychologists and psychiatrists , clearly knew what was happening but did not want to get involved. During the emergency room , I made sure to take full responsibility for my daughter , as my now ex-wife was very willing to have her daughter committed to a psychiatric unit. The manifestations of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy in my situation were textbook and as I have already stated the actions of the medical staff deplorable.
I found myself desperate for someone to help validate this rare, horrific condition but no one came forward. I would go on spending every waking moment, even during the night while sleeping on the couch , making sure no tactics were used to psychologically harm my daughter.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy is so clever and tragically it is this fact alone that allows it to go on for so long. The worst form of child abuse and no one even in the medical field who clearly informed me of the condition willing to step in and do something. It was a nightmare that went on for many months.
John Cooper MD
As my son was aware of what was going on, he often had to suffer the despicable actions of his mother with munchausen syndrome by proxy. Having studied psychology , my son was well-educated about this bizarre condition and often tried to have his mother understand the horrific things she was doing to him and his daughter. As with anyone diagnosed with a borderline and narcissistic personality disorder on top of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy , he came to realize that sad truth that his mother was completely lacking insight about her mental illness and refused to get help from family members or professionals.
One of many examples of how ruthless an individual with munchausen syndrome by proxy can be occurred when me and my son where living in the basement while my daughter lived upstairs in her bedroom near her mother’s room. My ex-wife went so far as to nail sliding bolts on the door to the basement to keep my son and I in the basement. This was done, not to suggest we were going to come upstairs and do something harmful but to actually make my daughter believe we were bad and that her mother was protecting her. Fortunately , my son having studied psychology understood the disease and would just kick the door open as he saw the actions as nonsense. The lock was actually nailed in place right through beautifully finished molding leading into the kitchen.
My son unfortunately at a relatively young age had to witness and endure emotionally such despicable actions by his mother, while trying to concentrate on school work. There was no one that was not adversely affected by the bizarre actions that were taking place. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is so hard to comprehend that my son also had to withstand the frustration (as did myself) of no one believing this behavior was going on. My son would talk to his friends about his mother’s condition and yet got nowhere as all they saw was a seemingly loving mother who would always appear kind and thoughtful.
Frustration is by far the best term to use when describing how family members feel living with someone with Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. Desperately trying to convince others , even therapists, of this horrid disease and getting nowhere. The reason being because the deception of individuals with this disease are so clever and the thought of a mother wanting to psychologically damage her child is inconceivable.
As mentioned , countless efforts were made by me and my son to educate individuals about the disease without success. The perpetrator was so cunning , she managed to fool many therapists as well. This fact which I will discuss in another post leads family members not only to be frustrated but feeling desperate as no one believes you. My son put it best when he said my mom is the “Master of Deceit”. Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is more common than one would think as it often goes undetected, tragically leading to the ongoing abuse of children. If a therapist can be fooled , there is no need to wonder why this impacts children as they are so trusting and developmentally vulnerable to such misguided treatment.
John Cooper MD
Munchausen’s Syndrome – A Strange Condition With the Strange Name
By Er Jell
You have probably heard about Munchausen’s syndrome on a talk show or read about it in the news. This is a rather rare yet complex mental health condition that causes people to look for medical help over and over again, regardless if they are sick or not. Much of the time the person is harming himself in some way for an excuse to go to the doctor.
People who have Munchausen’s syndrome will create symptoms of being sick in themselves. He or she may swallow dangerous and toxic things or may cut or hit himself to make it appear as though they have been in an accident of some sort. Sometimes they will create symptoms of sickness in someone else, this is called Munchausen by proxy. Sometimes you read about it that mothers making their own children ill as a way to gain attention. The mother will either physically harm her often young child or she will neglect to care for the child when the child has a cold or something and lets the cold build into a worse condition. The child is then rushed to the hospital by the ‘concerned mother’ who gets all kinds of attention. It is terrible that kids are used like this, but sadly it happens.
Interestingly, many people with Munchausen’s know a good deal about medical conditions and symptoms. They will spend hours pouring over medical text and reference books and will study all types of medical conditions on the internet. They know very well what types of treatments are used for each illness they feign to have and they go to great lengths to learn as much as they possibly can about all kinds of diseases. In fact, once they arrive at a hospital or doctor’s office, the medical personnel is so convinced because of their knowledge of the symptoms that extensive testing is often carried out. And this is exactly what the Munchausen’s sufferer wants.
The person with Munchausen’s will often report to a medical center of some type saying that he cannot breathe, has had an allergic reaction or says that he is in pain and has blacked out. He may also report diarrhea and vomiting. He will go from emergency room to emergency room, telling the same story to countless medical personnel because he is in need of confirmation of his illness. Munchausen’s often begins in young adulthood and often the person has had some type of healthcare experience, although probably limited. It is also thought that the Munchausen’s patient has experienced abuse or neglect as a child.
Treatment is quite difficult. If the patient admits he has a problem, he can be treated by a psychiatrist. But more often than not he/she does not admit the problem and will disappear and simply move on to another hospital to get the attention and treatment he so desperately seeks.
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Given my background, I knew exactly what was going on regarding the horrific and destructive condition of Munchausen By Proxy. I fought in every way I could to protect my children and though I succeeded as they are now in their 20′s , I lost everything in the process.
Munchausen syndrome by proxy is incomprehensible to most and thus the general community and most tragically the judicial system fails to identify this form of child abuse, likely thinking the father in most cases is trying to “fabricate” what is happening , when it is actually the exact opposite.
I will never forget how my daughter, while being brainwashed, was used by her mother to establish the mother’s credibility of her warped convictions. My daughter’s room was left messy and disorganized for over a year, as her mother had no interest in keeping up the house and I was able to live in the house due to false accusations. Then, when the GAL was scheduled to make a visit to the home my daughter’s room was spotless and fixed up beyond what you might expect how a typical teen would keep their room.
The cleverness and deception of Munchausen By Proxy defies any rational understanding. A parent , most often a mother, projecting his/her mental illness onto a child to the extent of trying to get the child committed as my ex -wife did on two occasions.
The GAL was completely fooled by this horrible (criminal) child abuse that was going on. So much so , that the GAL actually went against the only two MD’s willing to talk to her in the GAL report . Both doctors clearly stating that I should have had custody of both my children. The GAL actually allowed my children to be split up giving custody of my daughter to her ongoing abusive mother.
My son , who was not brainwashed by the vial tricks of his mother and her attorney, was allowed to stay with me. I cannot tell you how angry he was to see the legal system fail when the evidence regarding his mother’s abuse was so clear.
Munchausen By Proxy is a condition I have to reiterate , which is simply incomprehensible to most. As a result this worst form of child abuse is allowed to go on uncontested. I witnessed fellow colleagues in the medical profession lie about their clear understanding of the situation. Including a physician who saw my ex-wife and actually diagnosed her only to later lie in the medical record about the real reason I was so crippled with anxiety every day. So much anxiety , that I had to stop work after having had 13 weeks of FMLA to be home with my children.
It is truly shameful the conduct I witnessed in the medical community. Legally, I knew what I was up against, as I know how lawyers love to use the deception of this disease to their advantage. They simply claim “they didn’t know” if they are ever held to any accountability. Perhaps most despicable is what I have recently noted among the various ads for legal representation. Actual solicitation by attorneys to defend mother’s who have been accused of Munchausen By Proxy. It is so sad to see a society that is not out to do the right thing but simply is interested in furthering causes that benefit their financial interests even at the expense of allowing child abuse to continue.
John Cooper MD
It is well known that most anorexic girls have over-controlling parents who find it impossible to not be involved in every aspect of the girl’s life. However another aspect has recently come the attention of psychologists and that is the parent with Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) in which one or more of the parents are keeping the child in a state of mental anguish so that the mental state of anorexia continues. This enables the parent to enjoy the drama of hospital life and expanding control to all aspects of medical treatment. It is the very drama of hospitals that is the excitement and fulfillment of the desire to be a hero.
Baron Munchausen was German soldier (1871) who as an officer in the Army regaled all who would listen to his fantastic stories of heroism and adventure. However all was make-believe but enabled him to garner so much attention that his otherwise dull life would offer. In psychological terms we have adapted the term to a syndrome in which one person deliberately exaggerates, fabricates and enhances the mental or physical state of someone in their care. In the case of anorexia this means continuing to create situations and behavior that cause the child/girl to continue in unhealthy thinking, emotion and behavior.
Anorexia Nervosa itself is recognized as a slimming disease in which the girl deliberately refuses nourishment and maintains levels of exercise in order to reduce her weight. This leads to a training of the stomach to accept less food than it requires keeping a healthy balance over height to weight ratios (BMI). In addition the girl acquires rituals (obsessive compulsive behavior) that enable her to reduce the anxiety of feeling over-weight when in fact she is wasting away (body morphism). This may include jerking movements, over-stretching and fast paced walking.
The title – by proxy – means that while the parent in everyday life has a routine, maybe even a dull existence they find that through their children they can create situations is which the child is kept in a sickly state needing hospitalization in order to enjoy the drama of watching the doctors try to save their child, often the over controlling in the family – then extends to the doctors – many of whom are over-whelmed by the parent who is acting as the hero trying to save their child. The Munchausen parent often has read many medical books and particularly about the topic that their child has developed. Therefore often telling the doctors how they should treat their child moment by moment. This causes much pressure and stress to the doctors who now fear law-suits and complaints by the parents who think they know better. Despite what you may see on television most doctors are employees just like any other and have the same fears of unemployment and loss of reputation.
Once the Munchausen parent is in control of the doctors, child/girl, and any other professionals they then lose faith in the medical profession to help and so bitterly complain to the same doctors who earlier were considered the most caring considerate doctors – but once the doctors try to take back control – the parents start to look for so-called outside experts – a procession of doctors start visiting the child in hospital (often with no permission from the hospital authorities) brought in as visitors. These so-called famous experts – see the child and reconfirm she is ill – which no one disputed in the first place. However once these outside doctors realize they are being used they soon disappear back to where ever they came from. The parents then start hospital hopping – taking the child to different hospitals on a regular basis – each hospital is better than the last one – each set of doctors more caring – however in time this starts to falter and the new set of doctors realize the situation and wish to distance themselves from the parents.
Although in most cases it is one parent causing the situation the other spouse often is in a supporting role and weaker. They tend to back up the first parent – it is like when you are child and your mother cries, “listen to your father dear”. The second parents often have some psychological problems of their own that they model down to the children in the family. In child development, socialization takes place in the home often by modeling parental behavior – if you father does it will seem normal – therefore the child develops a similar internal belief system, for example if the one parents suffers from anxiety and uses rituals to reduce the emotions then we should not be surprised to see the child imitate that method for themselves.
Although ideally family therapy would be a preferred route with at least two psychologists working together (one as observer) it is not often accepted by the parents as that would mean risking exposure of their motivation for their daughter’s illness. Often the parents will control the issues discussed and pre-brief the therapist as to what they should ask, the focus of attention being the child and making certain subjects taboo. This ensures they still continue to be in control of the situation and the therapist if untrained in clinical work will not understand, often end up confused as to how they became the tool of the parent. Unfortunately most counselors are not trained to deal with difficult cases – and may in fact do more harm than good in becoming manipulated by the parent without realizing it. They in fact may help to increase the anxiety and eating disorder in the child by not tackling the parental problems in the first place. Of course in all this there is a victim – the child – who with the right support and cognitive emotive approach could recover and lead a normal life. The parents while acting as heroes to save the day – in fact continue to evoke behavior in the child by over-control and high criticism. Separation of the child from the parents is the most desirable outcome but immensely difficult as they have created an over-dependency in the child who is confused over the inconsistency of her parents treatment, over-involvement with the doctors and insistence they it is all her own fault, until such a point that the child has lost all trust in the parents and doctors and that they are torn by dependency which is so painful.
This is a particular mine field most doctors do not like to tread. If you suspect that a parent is deliberately continuing the child’s suffering in order to enjoy the drama of the situation you are obliged to inform social services as to the situation. However in the case on Munchausen syndrome by proxy it is very difficult to prove in a court – the parent’s behavior judged by most lay people (juries) may be seen as over-protective caring but not as deliberate harm. The child cannot support your case as with most minors they have a dependency problem of not accepting the parents who say she loves you would then harm you on purpose. In Britain where physical harm was often taking place – secret cameras were installed by court order in suspected cases. Often the cameras caught MSP parents suffocating, braking arms and even beating children (babies in most cases) in order to continue the drama. These parents were obviously prosecuted on the evidence of the video shown in court. However in psychological harm it is much more difficult to prove your case. Verbal cruelty and control is not directly a criminal situation that can be witnessed, but only surmised by the anorexic child’s reports of parental coercion. Therefore it is rare or impossible to risk a doctor’s career in court by trying a case as an expert witness to something that may end up blowing back in your face as a counter-complaint of incompetence.
As soon as the doctors realize the child’s anorexia is in fact being deliberately continued by the parent who is MSP then they fall back on the – sorry we cannot help – sorry we cannot take responsibility – sorry we are not equipped for you daughters case. In other words – they pass the child on. Each hospital in turn realizes the situation within a few weeks and starts to discuss behind close doors discharging the child for lack of progress. However at some point the parents run out of options as now most of the hospitals know who they are. So even at registration – the names are already flagged for rejection. Although this sounds unethical the hospital has an obligation to protect its other patients and not have doctors distracted by over controlling parents who take up considerable time at the hospital – often staying overnight and all day – just to make sure – their child is getting constant attention. This is a dilemma for any hospital that has to offer a level of service that is constant over time and priority of patient care.
For the treating psychologist this is a constant challenge. On one hand they have to take into account their ethical obligation to the child’s welfare, that what ever the parent’s problems the child is still in need of care. In order to do this trust with the child is uppermost in the psychologists mind. This may mean taking sides against the other doctors, parents and well-meaning outsiders. What the child needs is consistency of care – that at least one person is always there for them to listen, discuss and help. A child is not an adult patient and often looks to the psychologist for direction and advice. Coming into conflict with the over controlling parents is inevitable as they try to manipulate the psychologist to follow their agenda. The parents often quote – experts at you – telling you that they know best and that you are not doing what they expect of you. Treatment takes a long time – several weeks – many sessions – but the parents want instant results – and if you cannot provide them – you are not good enough and so they are hunting for the next famous expert to take your place. However even for the parents if you are a good therapist with experience the trust you gain with the child can overcome parental interference. The child will often insist on seeing you – as the only person they can really trust – the parents are furious at this outcome as this may mean the child getting more in control and not needing them so much.
I would like to state there is an easy outcome to this type of case but there is not. It is one reason child separation from the parents is the ideal – get her alone for a while and build up her self confidence to the point she can resist her MSP parent from harming her psychologically. However in most cases this will never happen – so you have to have a high tolerance level for criticism, resistance to being controlled and insightful often novel ways of dealing with the anorexia and MSP at the same time. Your priority should always be the child. However let us not forget that you may have two parents suffering from a mental disorder all of their own – and should be encouraged to seek therapy for themselves. It is best for them to go to individual sessions and not as a family – as the dynamic is already toxic. If the parents can be treated for MSP and other complications the child may have the chance of a future.
Dr. Stephen Myler is from Leicester in England, an industrial town in the Midlands of the United Kingdom. He holds a B.Sc (Honours) in Psychology from the UK Open University the largest in the UK; he also has an M.Sc and Ph.D in Psychology from Knightsbridge University in Denmark. In addition to this Stephen holds many diplomas and awards in a variety of academic areas including journalism, finance, teaching and advanced therapy for mental health. Stephen has as a Professor of Psychology many years teaching experience in colleges and universities in England and China to post 16 young adults, instructing in psychology, sociology, English, marketing and business. He has been fortunate to travel extensively from Australia to Africa to the United Sates, South America, Borneo, most of Europe and Russia. Stephen’s favourite hobby is the study of primates and likes to play badminton. He believes that students who enjoy classes with humour and enthusiasm from the teacher always come back eager to learn more.