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Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

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Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby schenier » Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:48 pm

Apologies in advance for this post being lengthy. My husband and I believe that my mother-in-law suffers from Munchausen Syndrome. There have been signs throughout her life, but I will focus on the past 15 years. About 15 years ago, she was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (similar to M.S.) I do believe that she was told at some point, by some M.D. that they believed she had this disorder. This disorder went from causing pain, to muscle atrophy, the progression from using a cane to a wheel chair, and she is now essentially bed-ridden.

Some of the other diseases and afflictions she has had since the M.G. "diagnosis" include: fibromyalgia, asthma, congestive heart failure, enlarged heart, seizures, unexplained passing out, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, neuropathy, diabetes, and others I have probably forgotten. The amount of medications she is on for all of these different afflictions range from herbs and homeopathic, to heavy-duty narcotics that are usually used to treat break through pain for terminal cancer patients.

Her unexplained deterioration over the past two years began to make my husband and I suspicious of all of her health issues. It seemed like she was starting to "collect" diseases. My husband asked to go to a Dr. appointment with her several times, and she became very defensive and emotional. Then, in July things reached a boiling point. She was admitted to the hospital for "seizures" . To make a long story short: a 2 week stay in the local hospital, and a 3 day intensive study at a Nationally recognized clinic revealed that: She does not have M.G., she does not have seizures, her heart is perfectly healthy, and no known medical tests reveal any known diseases or anything else. It was suggested by both hospitals that she see a psychiatrist.

This is where it gets ugly. My husband fully supports the conclusion that she needs mental health treatment. In fact, he feels it is bad enough that she should be at an inpatient facility. However, his mother lives with her sister. The sister she lives with, as well as her mother and other sister do not believe any of the medical tests. They all act as if my mother-in-law has an illness so rare, or undiscovered, that she requires round the clock care, use of a bed pan, etc... My husband has tried numerous times to try to convince them to support his position that she needs serious mental health treatment.

Since July, this "disagreement" has gone from arguments with his mother about her health to: the two of us being banned from family gatherings, telling my husband he is verbally abusing his mother, his mother making the whole issue an us-versus-them game, etc... To say that things have passed the boiling point is an understatement. The Munchausen is coupled with passive-aggressive behavior, crying, passing blame and guilt, and a constant victim mentality.

My questions to those with family members who have Munchausen: Does this sound like Munchausen to you, or something else? (Perhaps a misdiagnosis that snowballed?!?) Does your loved one with Munchausen also have passive-aggressive behaviors and a victim mentality? Have you been able to convince your loved one to seek treatment? Have you also experienced retaliation from other family member, and if so how did you deal with it?

Any suggestions or advice would be very much appreciated. Things have gotten so bad that I am due without first child any day, and she will not be meeting my husband’s side of the family until there is some resolution to the situation (if such a time ever comes). I feel so badly for my husband that he is not able to share this joyful time with those who should matter most because he has been banished for trying to help his mother the only way he knows how.
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Re: Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby jasmin » Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:55 pm

Hi, schenier! Does no one at all believe you and your husband? We can't tell you for sure if she has Munch or not, but it is sure that she doesn't have the illnesses she and her sister think she has and that she needs professional help. When someone has a victim mentality, other people in their family can nurture it and "feed off it", just like you're saying.
Do you think that, if you and your husband would not mention the issue for a while and pretend to be like everyone else in the family, you might be able to convince more people, eventually, if their guard is down?
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Re: Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby schenier » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:11 pm

Hi Jasmin,
My brother in law, and others outside of her immediate family understand that, at the very least, she needs to talk to a therapist. The problem is the ones who are around her all the time are feeding into it, so its become and us versus them mentality. Its been several months already since this all came to a head, but I think time for everyones tempers to cool is the only chance at this point.
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Re: Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby jasmin » Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:29 pm

Yah, you're probably right. Maybe you could try to confront the relatives who support her ideas about why they're doing what they're doing, when the time is right.
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Regarding your old post about Munchausen

Postby gcmiller4 » Wed Nov 09, 2011 7:16 pm

We have Munchausen in our family. It involves a parent, usually the mother, being excessively "concerned" about the welfare of a child or children to the point of sickness and beyond , the chilldren who could go on to enter into an aggravated condition themselves. Very domineering families are involved. Call it heiress syndrome. The mother hasn't been able to assert the control of a more well-heeled family that she belongs to, maybe after her family has passed on, or after she has herself moved out of town and she becomes excessively domineering.
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Re: Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby glenmeadowfarm » Tue Nov 22, 2011 5:55 am

I just LOVE a good revelatory moment! Heiress syndrome, domineering family dynamics, this is so spot on, so incredibly CORRECT. I thought that particular piece of family architecture, while carrying the potential to be unpleasant, was significantly more benign than the "munchausens show". Our M (shall I say M for "munchausen-er) is arch, supercilious, rigid, quick to assume control, the matriarch. In her world view, parents do not accept critical thoughts or corrections from children no matter what, no matter when. We are being "bizarre" to try to get her to see her behavior differently, or we are the ones that get reprimanded and snapped at contemptuously if we try to get her tomoderate her bloody medical descriptions when all the small children of the family are around. In short, she thinks she is above influence by us; we are not entitled to it positionally as she is the matriarch. Something like that. She is not willing to even entertain that she has munchausens. My family has two physicians IN it who both say she is on that spectrum somewhere, but she dismisses that. Face to face attempts to get her to see some of what we see result in parent=-child style dismissals and reprimands, followed by heaping servings of contempt for days. I finally gave up and resorted to cheating -- communicating by email what I thought simply HAD to be communicated. She thinks I am weird. SO be it. But there is no, no, no getting through to her. She sees no need to change and continues to plan and shop for ever more interesting maladies, surgeries, and medications. I believe her case is very advanced, in that she reminds me of an addict who is staggering around with a bottle. That bottle is his best friend. He's clearly out of control but won't admit it. And that bottle is more important than any of you.

In absolute helplessness aqnd despair, after bieng her primary caregiver for 15 years as my siblings live out of state, I flat out quit. I just collapsedl Can't do it any more. My siblings are trying to take over, but now the holidays are upon us and I don't want to deal with her. Isn't that awful? But she will grab me by the arm and try to muscle me into some guest room and rip me a new one. Gee what fun. So I'm skipping all the family thanksgiving functions and going to see friends.

Hopefully I can find a more middle of the road stance once I learn to manage this better. Many in my family are mad that I quit as caregiver because now there is work for them, and they have to put up with this big malignant layer of conversation about disease and tests and infections and potentialties over and over and over. It's like trying to take a sip out of a firehose. How do you express care to a person who is a) not the person you used to know; b) not about to let you take that bottle away; c) so consumed by the pursuit of healthcare that there is nothing else left in their life, no activities, no friends, no hobbies, no visits -- nothing but prescriptions, drs apptmts, device interrogations, on and on and on. It is EXHAUSTING. My siblings have an easier time setting boundaries and dividing up responsibilities as there are 3 of them and they each live in different states. Me, I was two blocks away and that was, um, not working. Sorry for the huge dump, so appreciate you here.
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Re: Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby Bettyboop » Wed Dec 21, 2011 1:41 am

As a medical professional I would suggest that your mother in law gets all the medical testing she can. Bloods, scans, X-rays, ECGs, blood pressure, blood sugar. Tell the doctor what you suspect and ask if she can be an impatient for 24hours before any tests are carried out to ensure that she does not take anything that can effect the test results.

That is if you can.

If there is nothing wrong with her body chemistry or her psysiology then she is most likely healthy. Even if she had a really rare disorder biochemical testing and scanning will show an abnormality. The Ambonmality will be present even if the docs don't know what the abnormality means.
If there is no abnormality detected after all the tests then there is nothing wrong with her body.


However this does not stop her from believing that there is. She could she say was in pain and to her the pain is real and she may not even know that it is her head making it up. So in a sense she still does need to be treat like a a person with pain. Until she herself admit to it being in her head (or until she realises it is) then there is not much you can do to help her.



As for your family; maybe ask them if she can go through the full testing to see what could be wrong? If they dont agree with testing than ask them why?
Ask them is there is anyway you can work on it together.

Personally until EVERY thing is ruled out I would not assume it is munchausens (although it sounds possible).

It could also be good for you to talk to a psychiatrist and ask them for advice.

But remember that to her in her mind, she is ill. Even if all the test say she is not.
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Re: Seeking advice: Family member with Munchausen

Postby coriene » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:26 am

It sure sounds like Munchausen to me.
I have a similar situation with my MIL. Except I'm the only one who seems to see through it. She takes herself to the hospital regularly (almost every month actually) & doesn't let anyone else take her. She's always released with no treatment or remedy for her "so called illness." I've offered to go to doctor's appointments with her but she always declines. The last hospital trip she said she was bleeding from her rectum... The nurse came in when we were there & asked for a stool sample... She said she needed laxatives to go to the bathroom so he could see the blood... He said if you're bleeding you won't need laxatives, the blood will be present without actually going to the bathroom... Somehow I was the only one to take notice of this comment. She also supposedly had heart issues... When the nurse came in she (MIL) kept insisting that her blood pressure was a certain level earlier on, the nurse looked at the log & didn't find that anywhere.
What makes it so frustrating is when you're expected to believe the BS & show sympathy for someone who is clearly lying.
I know how you feel & it almost makes you feel like you're the crazy one... At least your husband is on the same page with you & he's not buying into it.
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