Münchhaussen by proxy – When a mother keeps her child sick

Münchhausen by proxy is a syndrome that mainly occurs in women. It is often mothers who keep their child sick because they crave attention and find this from care providers by keeping their child sick. The mother (can also be a father or another caregiver) makes up a disease and continues to insist that the child suffers from it. The mother takes care of all the care of the ‘sick’ child. She walks with the child from doctor to hospital, from specialist to specialist. The doctors cannot make sense of the child’s symptoms. The mother enjoys all the attention she receives and loves being in a hospital. The child rarely goes to school because, according to the mother, he or she is ill and must stay at home. As a result, the child falls behind at school, but also socially. Münchhaussen by proxy is a serious form of child abuse but is very difficult to diagnose. This is because the perpetrator often goes to multiple specialists, so there is no common thread. If the mother does not feel taken seriously by a GP, or if the GP cannot deal with the symptoms and has already ruled everything out, the mother takes the child to the next GP and everything starts all over again. Bystanders often cannot believe that the mother is making up the child’s illness and therefore do not expect it to be made up.

How can you recognize Münchhausen by proxy?

    • There is a child who is often ill without a clear cause being found.
    • The perpetrator takes care of all the care and arranges care at the doctor and hospital visits. The perpetrator’s partner is kept out of this.
    • When the child is separated from the perpetrator, he visibly improves and no longer suffers from the symptoms.
    • The child is often kept home from school and therefore falls behind academically but also socially.
    • The child is often told that he is ill.
    • The perpetrator has a lot of medical knowledge, often from reading a lot about medical science.
    • The perpetrator is extremely interested in other sick children and learns from these symptoms.
    • The perpetrator demands all the attention of the medical staff while the child is being examined.
    • The perpetrator likes to be the center of attention and uses the child for this.
    • The perpetrator often takes the child to different specialists. If one specialist rules out a disease, the perpetrator moves on to the next.
    • A minor cold is greatly exaggerated.
    • Force is used (but without leaving traces, for example pressing a pillow on the child’s head until the child turns blue).
    • Malnutrition (the child receives too little or poor nutrition).
    • Constantly telling the child that he is sick.
    • Long-term administration of (wrong) medications or more medications than prescribed.
    • The perpetrator immediately agrees to painful medical examinations, while most parents have more difficulty with this.
    • The perpetrator prevents the child from becoming toilet trained.

The difference between Münchhaussen by proxy and Münchhaussen syndrome

The difference between Münchhaussen by proxy and Münchhaussen syndrome is that with Münchhaussen syndrome the perpetrator invents symptoms and/or diseases in himself and in Münchhaussen by proxy the perpetrator invents diseases and symptoms in the child (or another person he/she cares for).

Difference between man and woman (perpetrator)

95% of the people who have this syndrome are women and only 5% are men.

Be careful

If you suspect that there is child abuse, with or without a connection with Münchhaussen by proxy, you can always ask for advice or report it to the Veilig Thuis (linder abuse reporting centre).

Often the partners of someone with Münchhaussen syndrome by proxy do not believe that their partner suffers from it. They have the idea that their partner has the best interests of the child in mind and that the child is always sick. If your child tells you that mom always makes her sick, and that she is not sick, take this seriously. Children don’t come up with something like that for nothing. Even if it were not true, this is still a cry for help from the child for whatever reason.

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