Munchausen Overview

Munchausen Syndrome Treatments

Doctors have to do a lot of investigating to figure out that a patient has Munchausen syndrome.
Doctors have to do a lot of investigating to figure out that a patient has Munchausen syndrome.
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Both types of Munchausen syndrome are difficult to treat because people who have these conditions are unwilling to admit they have a problem. Doctors have to investigate the patient's medical history and perform medical tests to confirm that the problem is psychological and not than physical.

Treatment for Munchausen syndrome usually involves psychiatric counseling to change the thoughts and behaviors that are causing the condition. Sometimes medication can help ease depression or anxiety if those are factors.

With Munchausen syndrome by proxy, it's important to get the child away from the caregiver before any further harm is done. The child may need treatment both for the physical complications of having undergone unnecessary tests and procedures, and for the psychological scars of abuse. About 10 percent of children who have been victims of Munchausen syndrome by proxy will die. Others could go on to develop Munchausen syndrome when they grow up.

Famous Cases

  • William McIlhoy made it into "Guinness World Records," but he didn't have many fans at Britain's National Hospital Service. After 400 operations in 100 different hospitals, McIlhoy ran up $4 million worth of medical bills. The famous Munchausen syndrome sufferer died in a retirement home in 1983.
  • All nine of Marybeth Tinning's children died between 1972 and 1985, most of them under mysterious circumstances. Each time, she faithfully played the role of the distraught mother and basked in the sympathy. When she was finally arrested in 1986, Tinning admitted to having smothered her children with a pillow. As is often the case with spouses of Munchausen by proxy parents, her husband hadn't interceded, despite his suspicions. When interviewed, he said, "you have to trust your wife. She has her things to do, and as long as she gets them done, you don't ask questions." [source: Crime Library]. Marybeth Tinning was convicted of murder in 1987 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
  • When five of Waneta Hoyt's six children died between 1965 and 1971, doctors suspected sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The case was even featured in prominent medical journals. But when New York State Prosecutor William Fitzpatrick read about the case, he grew suspicious. His investigation led to Hoyt's arrest in 1994. When she was interrogated, Hoyt broke down and admitted that she had killed her children in an attempt to quiet them. She was sent to prison for life.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


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  • Boros, Stephen J. and Larry C. Brubaker. "Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: Case Accounts." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, June 1992, pp. 16-20.
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