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Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is Munchausen syndrome by proxy?

Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) is a mental illness where a caregiver creates or lies about a child's illness. The caregiver is commonly a parent, usually the mother. The child is commonly preschool age but may be up to 16 years old. The child may have symptoms of illness or poisoning, such as vomiting, infections, bleeding, trouble breathing, and seizures. The child often receives many unnecessary tests and treatments for the false illness.

What increases the risk for MSP?

A person who has a history of Munchausen syndrome is at greatest risk for MSP. Munchausen syndrome is a mental illness where a person creates and lies about her own illnesses. A personality disorder, history of abuse or neglect in childhood, or poor self-esteem may also increase the risk for MSP.

What behaviors are common in a person with MSP?

  • Wants attention from others for having an ill child
  • Moves often or changes medical care facilities or providers often
  • Shows little concern for the child but is always present when the child is at a medical facility
  • Tries to make friends with medical staff
  • Will not admit to the cause of the child's illness

How is MSP treated?

Treatment involves long-term therapy. Therapy works best when the person admits she is causing the child's illness. Therapy also includes monitoring for new MSP behaviors by a therapist and others close to the person with MSP. The child will also need to be separated and protected from the caregiver.

Further information

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
    345 Park Boulevard
    Itasca , IL 60143
    Phone: 1- 800 - 433-9016
    Web Address:

Contact a healthcare provider or law enforcement agent

if you suspect a child is a victim of MSP.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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