Munchausen by proxy: pretending your child is sick

Munchausen by proxy or Von M√ľnchausen syndrome by proxy falls under child abuse or maltreatment: it is the conscious seeking of medical help for third parties, while this person is not ill. Munchausen by proxy is a psychological disorder that often arises from a neglected childhood or a history of abuse. Doctors often do not recognize the disorder. A number of symptoms indicate that it may be Munchausen by proxy.

What is Munchausen by proxy?

Munchausen by proxy, one of the most complicated and sometimes fatal forms of child abuse, but sometimes also animal abuse. This mental disorder is most commonly applied to children who are victims of it. In most cases the mother is the perpetrator, but also a foster parent, grandmother or other caregiver on whom the child is dependent. Less often the father is the perpetrator, but fathers sometimes hold a hand over the mother and do not intervene.
Munchausen by proxy is an extended version of Munchausen syndrome. These are people who pretend to be sick . With Munchausen by proxy, people pretend that a third person is sick. Proxy means ‘substitute’. This disorder is virtually unknown in the Netherlands, which is why there are many victims every year without the truth ever coming out. Children who were victims of a Munchausen by proxy patient are at greater risk of developing the same disorder later in life.


No one is born with Munchausen by proxy or MBP. There is always a reason why someone develops this disorder. People who were victims of Munchausen by proxy are more likely to develop the same disorder. In some cases this is the cause. Other causes include childhood neglect or abuse. Often the patient also has another disorder such as depression, Stockholm syndrome, an anxiety disorder or narcissism. Sometimes the cause lies in not being able to deal with stress and tension properly or not feeling appreciated.

Pretend your child is sick

Due to the underlying cause, the patient seeks attention, appreciation, care and sympathy. By pretending that their own child is ill, the patient is given the opportunity to take the child to doctors and hospitals. Doctors and medical staff are looked up to and the patient seeks contact and confirmation from doctors as much as possible. The fact that one’s own child is the victim of this is not recognized and denied.
The patient often has positive memories of a doctor or medical treatment. People who are eligible for medical treatment are heard and paid attention to. The patient can build a bond with the doctor and feels valued as a mother (or caregiver). And that is exactly what we Munchausen by proxy patient is looking for.
The child is pretended to be ill by visiting different doctors with varying medical complaints. Sometimes the child is deliberately made ill by administering spoiled food, medicines or inflicting injuries. The child is often described by the mother as having a developmental disorder or a low IQ. The mother can invent a psychological disorder in the child, but also a physical illness. These often alternate. The mother is very cooperative with the doctors and immediately gives permission for any examination or operation. In some cases, the mother even insists on surgery. The child is often malnourished and deprived of the necessary care and love. This creates an image of a sickly thin child who is quiet and withdrawn.

Why the child cooperates

A child is dependent on his or her parents and often has unconditional love for the parents. For example, many children suffer severe abuse and do not tell anyone, out of respect and sympathy for their parents. A child who is the victim of a Munchausen by proxy patient will often undergo all medical examinations and treatments without resistance. On the one hand out of sympathy for the parent, on the other hand often out of fear. The mother can tell the child that it is very ill and needs medical help, or there is a threat of death. The older children are often aware that something is wrong, but they still accept everything with resignation.

Knowledge of medical matters

The mother who comes to the doctor with the child has extensive knowledge of all kinds of medical complaints. For the doctor, this is often a sign that the mother is very concerned about the child and is very cooperative. As a result, many doctors do not recognize Munchausen by proxy. Often complaints are made up that are so vague that doctors are puzzled. Diarrhea, vomiting, not being able to urinate, not eating, headache, dizziness are all symptoms that can be attributed to many diseases and disorders.
The Munchausen by proxy patient often has several medical manuals at home or looks up a lot of information on the internet. These people also have large quantities of medicines , all intended for the child. The mother easily changes doctors or hospitals if not enough attention is paid to her. It is striking that brothers and sisters often also have a vague medical history. In a number of cases, brothers or sisters have previously died as a result of an unexplained illness. It is only when the next child appears to doctors that some of these doctors become suspicious. The mother will always deny everything and even say that the child itself has a psychological disorder. According to her, everything is also based on misunderstandings.
Munchausen by proxy can be recognized because the child, as soon as it is removed from the mother, is suddenly cured and does not require medication or medical attention . The child shows symptoms of illness again as soon as it is returned to the mother. The mother does not really love her child but needs the child for her own needs. And the child suffers enormously from this.

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