In detail

Münchausen syndrome by powers

Münchausen syndrome by powers

Baron von Münchausen, German knight of the seventeenth century, affection for fables and exaggerations, writes his autobiography recounting strange and exaggerated facts about travel, fighting, events. His fabulous stories inspired novelists and filmmakers and his name has been lent to a set of psychiatric conditions that are discovered among the strangest and most cruel in the world: Münchausen syndrome.


  • 1 What is Münchausen Syndrome
  • 2 What is Münchausen syndrome by "approximation" or "powers"?
  • 3 The mother and the victim

What is Münchausen syndrome?

The syndrome is defined as "the situation in which a person repeatedly simulates symptoms or events as if he were suffering from a disease or injury or was the victim of a violent act." Which means that the person pretends, exaggerates or creates with precision, the symptoms of a disease or injury or damage, often serious, in different institutions or fable made or makes false complaints, acting for various professionals, in order to gain the attention, sympathy and containment by third parties, especially health, education or law professionals, to obtain attention or some kind of secondary gain.

Unlike the hypochondriacs that if they believe in the disease that they claim to suffer, people who suffer from this syndrome know that they are “healthy” or that they are not victims of any aggression, but they appear, simulate or consciously create some disease or injury or victimize themselves.

What is Münchausen Syndrome by "approximation" or "powers"?

Münchausen syndrome by proxy is a variant of Münchausen syndrome that involves children. It is a very cruel and even terrifying form of child abuse. Although it can be caused by the father or mother or guardian or caregiver of a child, the literature reports more frequently to the mother as the main cause of this syndrome.

The responsible parent consciously uses different tricks to induce or develop or create real or apparent symptoms of illness and / or injury in the child. Simulates affection, concern and dedication to third parties when the child is in a situation of real abandonment or at risk, or lies about facts that involve him in order to obtain a secondary gain and maintain the attention of third parties, especially authority figures, to which he manipulates.

These people consciously know how to simulate a disease or injury or lie about facts and situations, with sophisticated skill. They tell false medical records about their children's illnesses, induce symptoms and signs, subject them to multiple checkups and evaluations, manipulate analyzes. They engage children in facts and situations, to even victimize them before authorities or obtain some benefit. They intentionally cause in the child, wounds, infections, serious damages and even death. The child is usually subjected to lengthy tests and invasive, cruel and unnecessary procedures or to uncomfortable, compromising and even immoral situations, which damage his physical and mental health.

This simulate can be taken to unthinkable extremes. The diseases and injuries that the child presents are inexplicable, rare, prolonged. The treatments are ineffective and the symptoms usually only appear in the child when the parent is present and not in his absence. False facts and stories, usually exaggerated, are detailed with skill and knowledge, as they are easily informed through professionals, literature and other means, about procedures, symptoms, treatment, consequences, etc.

The mother and the victim

In case of illness, the mother tries to be close to the child all the time, to simulate or manipulate the personnel involved, maintain the continuity of the symptom over time and move away the probability that the team performing the intervention suspects the truth . When the person thinks that it can be discovered, he removes the child from the treatment, claiming the little or no improvement of the child and transfers him to another institution. In cases related to the educational or judicial system, it manipulates and maintains the attention of the authorities through various devices in order to achieve its objectives (revenge, economic benefits, attention or others). When he becomes suspicious, he goes to other instances or dependencies or transfers the children to another institution.

During the treatment, the intervention or the procedures, the mother (father or guardian) is usually particularly attentive, worried and collaborative, with characteristics of "resigned victim". The authorities to this behavior, show admiration, consideration and respect for "their self-denial, surrender, sacrifice and dedication to the child or children, despite the difficulties, inconveniences, conditions and situation that fable and exaggerate to manipulate and achieve these authorities.

Certain mothers who were once chosen “Mothers of the Year” or some considered as “victimized” mothers, could be presenting this Syndrome.

Diagnosing the syndrome is difficult and cumbersome, as it involves actions not only related to the health and well-being of the child, but also with legal and judicial aspects.

The following are some signs that can alert us about this syndrome:

  • Health problems in a child who does not respond to treatments. Your problem evolves in an unusual way, is extremely persistent or does not respond to common explanations.
  • The results of exams and studies are unusual, disagree with the medical history or simply, are clinically impossible.
  • Frequent "fabricated" complaints against third parties and involving children.
  • Parents who know much more than usual about certain medical, psychological or legal procedures and who request them on their own initiative from the Progenitors professionals who are very attentive and careful and “sacrificed” who refuse to leave the child, for a minute, affected or show them as “victims” of some violent fabled fact.
  • Mother, father or guardian very calm or indifferent to possible diagnoses of a serious illness. Others, on the contrary, who get angry and aggravate the professionals, exaggeratedly ask for new studies and second opinions. Others that require a referral to a more sophisticated health center or other institution or agency.
  • The same father or mother can be a professional related to the field of health or law.
  • The symptoms of children suddenly improve when parents are no longer at their side or when they are accompanied by caregivers or social workers permanently.
  • A family history of unexplained diseases or deaths or complaints and psychological or legal problems.
  • Parents who fail to establish dialogue with their interned or intervened children or do not visit them or do not speak with the professional who treats them.
  • Adults who express an imperative need for flattery or do whatever it takes to be noticed before their peers or before professionals or the authorities.

In people with Münchausen syndrome there is usually an early history of emotional and physical abuse. These people seem to have identity problems, intense feelings, inadequate impulse control, poor sense of reality, brief psychotic episodes and unstable interpersonal relationships.
They are intelligent people, with resources, generally informed or who are informed about the matter that interests them and who lie simulate and exaggerate with full knowledge. They distrust authority figures but manipulate them so that they receive attention and achieve the objectives they pursue.


Johnson C: Abuse and Neglect of Children, in: Nelson's Textbook of Pediatrics. W.B. Saunders Company 1996: 120-121.
Garabetyan E. Munchausen syndrome. Web Article
Leonard K, Farrell P: Munchausen's syndrome by proxy. A little known type of abuse. Postgraduate Medicine 1992; 91: 197-204.
Cuban Society of Psychiatry. Munchausen syndrome. Session of the Provincial Branch. Cienfuegos, April 1997.

Alejandra Palacios Banchero
Clinical and Community Psychologist, Extrajudicial Conciliator

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