Recently, a stepfather who murdered his 5-year-old stepson was put on trial, and a mother who left her 15-month-old daughter unattended to die and put the body in a kimchi container and hid it for three years was arrested by the police. According to statistics from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Central Child Protection Agency, 132 children died from child abuse in the five years between 2014 and 2018. Most of the perpetrators were found to have suffered from unwanted pregnancies , lack of parenting knowledge, or extreme economic stress. However, there are cases where child abuse is caused by the desire for someone’s extreme care to be widely known and noticed, and for the child suffering from disease to be emotionally subdued completely to himself. This is called “triumphant Munchausen syndrome”.
Munchausen syndrome needs attention because it leads to child abuseㅣSource: Getty Image Bank
‘Munchausen syndrome’, deliberately pretending to be ill to get attention
Munchausen Syndrome is a disease named after Baron Karl Friedrich Munchausen, the real life protagonist of the fairy tale ‘The Adventures of the Baron Boggler’. Baron Munchausen was an 18th century German soldier and bureaucrat who was a braggart who exaggerated lies as facts or made up unbelievable words and actions to get people’s attention. American psychiatrist Richard Asher wrote in The Lancet, a medical journal in 1951, that the symptoms of mentally ill patients who constantly boast, exaggerate and falsely claim their experiences are similar to those of Baron Munchausen, and the disease is named after him back.
In other words, Munchausen syndrome treats or acts as if he has a disease in order to gain sympathy in order to receive love and attention from others, and he feels physical pain as if he actually has a disease.
“Munchausen syndrome is a subgroup of factitious disorders that deliberately fake physical symptoms in accordance with DSM-IV diagnostic criteria,” said Dr. Jeong Kwang-mo, a consultant at Haidak Department of Psychiatry (Seoul Top Psychiatric Clinic). it can only be diagnosed if there is no economic benefit, only to generate interest by playing the role of a patient.”
People with Munchausen syndrome often have a history of being rejected by their parents as children. It can also be caused by the experience of having suffered a serious illness or deprivation in the past, and recovered with excessive care from someone. Many patients have a poor identity and impaired self-image, which characterize borderline personality disorder. Sometimes you identify with the people around you. Munchausen syndrome is diagnosed when there is no clear external benefit, such as economic gain, avoidance of legal responsibility, or rest through malingering.
Symptoms of Munchausen syndrome include psychological depression, memory loss, hallucinations, and conversion disorder (deficits in motor function or sensory function or resulting physical symptoms). There is also a tendency to answer ‘yes’ to all the symptoms the doctor asks for in the clinic.
Physically, there have been reports of vomiting, abdominal pain, hemoptysis, rashes and abscesses throughout the body, fever, and bleeding after taking anticoagulants. Most of the symptoms appear within the scope of knowledge and imagination. the individual.
‘I didn’t know because I’m a devoted mother?’
“Alternative Munchausen Syndrome”… One of the main causes of child abuse
Sometimes, they try to use others to get attention for themselves, which is called ‘Munchausen’s proxy syndrome’. It usually leads to child abuse crimes because they use people they can easily manipulate. The problem is that correct diagnosis and treatment is not easy.
According to a paper titled ‘Munchausen Syndrome by Agent’ as a cause of child abuse by a research team from Chosun University published in the Korean Forensic Society on January 15th, ‘Munchausen Syndrome by proxy’ is a mental illness that leads to abuse and after three motives.
First of all, this is the desire to escape from the disagreement with your spouse. When a child is in hospital, parents’ attention is focused on the child, so they can avoid conflict with their spouse. Another reason is to follow a role such as ‘a devoted mother caring for a sick child’. Through this, I hope that others will respect and praise themselves. They work to gain solitude, affiliation, and status in the family. Whatever the reason, the obvious result is ‘child abuse’.
As a result of a study which investigated 796 perpetrators, 97.6% of the perpetrators were women, and 95.6% were found to be ‘mothers’. It is hard to find special signs unless you live together because you always plant the perception that you are a ‘caring mother’ or a ‘devoted mother’. In addition, even if a diagnosis is suspected, appropriate treatment is difficult because the patient is constantly lying down.
Need support and attention from family and friends
Treatment of patients with Munchausen syndrome begins with determining whether they really have a physical disease, and the role of the family and people around them is the most important. To do that, it is necessary to understand the characteristics of this disease well, and not to get caught up in the complaints of the patient’s changing symptoms, but to keep an appropriate distance and continue to support and encourage.
In addition, if the cause of the child’s disease or abnormal symptom is known but hidden, or if the child has been separated from the guardian and the disease is being cured, a diagnosis of surrogate Munchausen syndrome should be considered.
Support = Head of Haidaq Counseling Doctor Jung Kwang-mo (Seoul Tower Mental Health Clinic Psychiatry Specialist)