Munchausen syndrome

Munchausen syndrome
(This is an alternate entry to Munchhausen syndrome with two h's in Munchhausen. Whole medical reports have been written about the Munchausen syndrome incorrectly written with one h.) Recurrent feigning of catastrophic illnesses, a psychological disorder that is characterized by the recurrent presentation of the patient for treatment of an acute and often dire illness that is, in reality, not present. The person with Munchhausen syndrome usually gives a plausible and dramatic history. All of it is entirely false. The patient tends to go from hospital to hospital feigning medical or surgical diseases and giving false and fanciful information about their medical and social background. They may even have unnecessary surgery repeatedly, resulting for example in a "mass of scars" on the abdomen, what has been called a "gridiron abdomen." Some patients with Munchhausen’s syndrome cause their own illness, as by secretly ingesting or injecting substances. The syndrome was named by an astute English physician Richard Asher in 1951 after the German cavalry officer Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymous von Munchhausen (1720-97), a teller of tall tales. Although Asher named the syndrome, he did not discover it. In 1893 Henry Miege, a student of the famed French neurologist Jean Charcot, wrote his thesis on patients with the syndrome and Charcot (1825-1893) referred to it in his own writing. Forty years later, the Kansas psychiatrist Karl Menninger (1893–1990) discussed the subject in a paper entitled "Polysurgery and Polysurgical Addiction." However, it was Asher's article that crystallized the syndrome and brought it to general medical attention. The first sentence in Asher's article stated, "Here is described a common syndrome which most doctors have seen, but about which little has been written." This prompted a flurry of responses in which doctors testified that they, too, had had patients with this mysterious malady. Although the Baron's name was Münchhausen, it is commonly written without the umlaut as "Munchhausen" in English.

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Mun·chau·sen syndrome 'mən-.chau̇-zən- or Mun·chau·sen's syndrome -zənz- n a psychological disorder characterized by the feigning of the symptoms of a disease or injury in order to undergo diagnostic tests, hospitalization, or medical or surgical treatment
Münch·hau·sen 'muenk-.hau̇-zən Karl Friedrich Hieronymous, Freiherr von (1720-1797)
German soldier. As a retired cavalry officer Münchhausen acquired a reputation as a raconteur of preposterous stories about his adventures as a soldier, hunter, and sportsman. From 1781 to 1783 a collection of such tales was published, with authorship generally attributed to the baron. An English version of the tales was published in 1785 under the title Baron Munchausen's Narrative of His Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia. Only years later in 1824 was it revealed that the author of the English edition was Rudolph Erich Raspe (1737-1794). Other authors used these stories as source material to exaggerate still further or to compose other tall tales of a similar mode. Gradually Münchhausen's name became associated with the amusingly preposterous story or the lie winningly told.

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Mun·chau·sen syndrome (moonґchou-zən) [Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus MÑŒnchhausen, German soldier and traveler, 1720–1797, a reputed teller of exaggerated tales] see under syndrome.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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  • Munchausen Syndrome —    Deliberately simulating medical or surgical illness in order to be admitted to hospital for an operation is a form of malingering, unlike involuntary addiction to surgery. (See HYSTERIA: Karl Menninger describes polysurgical addiction [1934].) …   Historical dictionary of Psychiatry

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  • Munchausen syndrome by proxy — Psychiatry. a form of Munchausen syndrome in which a person induces or claims to observe a disease in another, usually a close relative, in order to attract the doctor s attention to herself or himself. * * * …   Universalium

  • Munchausen syndrome by proxy — Mun′chausen syn drome by prox′y n. psy a form of Munchausen syndrome in which a person induces or claims to observe a disease in another, usually a close relative, in order to attract the doctor s attention to herself or himself …   From formal English to slang

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