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Bill
Bill, LCSW, Consultant, Expert Witness
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 3706
Experience:  35 years treating individuals, couples, families with mental health and substance abuse prob's
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My niece (18) is in Denver for inpatient treatment for anorexia.

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My niece (18) is in Denver for inpatient treatment for anorexia. She once told us she didn't usually purge after eating; she just would not eat. I have been thinking back over the years, and I truly believe she has Munchausen by Proxy. I have talked with my sister (niece's mom) and asked her to explore with her therapist whether she, herself, has Munchausen, and she does not answer me (or, probably, follow through with that discussion with her therapist). Three physicians to whom I have mentioned this whole situation have -- independently of my thoughts about Munchausen -- said my sister has it and one doctor said right out: "She WANTS her daughter to be sick." I would like an outside professional opiniion about whether or not I should try to get through to staff at the center where my niece is so I can express my concerns to them while she is there. Sadly, this is a difficult thing to accomplish, what with all the "privacy" rights, but I would like to know they are aware.

Bill :

Hello- Thank you for asking the question. I have over 30 years of experience working with individuals, couples and families & am happy to reply.

Bill :

I am happy to help you with this-

Bill :

Are you available to chat now?

Bill :

It is not uncommon for persons with eating disorders to have issues that could be related to this co-existing disorder- Munchausen.

Bill :

As you state- if you see this pattern dating back many years, it is a possibility that this could be a factor.

Bill :

If your niece is in a treatment program- this should be explored as part of the family therapy treatment componant

Customer:

Yes, I am here now.

Bill :

In your view- does your sister have an eating disorder?

Customer:

No, my sister doesn't.

Bill :

or does she have a history of mental illness........

Bill :

I understand you niece does-------often

Customer:

Yes, she is definitely troubled; we were brought up in a very abusive environment -- physically and emotionally.

Bill :

  • Is a parent or caregiver, usually a mother

  • May be a health care professional

  • Is very friendly and cooperative with the health care providers

  • Appears quite concerned (some may seem overly concerned) about their child

  • May suffer from Munchausen syndrome (a related disorder in which a person repeatedly acts as if he or she has a physical or mental illness when he or she is not really sick)

Bill :

Above are primary characteristics of a parent of a child with MBP

Customer:

My sister constantly seeks medical attention. Since it's my understanding about Munchausen that people eventually get to the point where they no longer get attention from others, they begin to "hurt" their child so they have a renewed cause for "needing" sympathy and comforting.

Customer:

The characteristics you listed DO apply.

Bill :

This is true and that is why it is likely that you Sister has Munchausen \

Bill :

Sometimes they often have a similar disorder as the child is experiencing........that is why I asked if you Sister has a history of Eating Disorder

Customer:

Right, I understand that she probably does have Munchausen. My concern, though, is not my sister -- it's my niece. Do you think the staff at ERC in Denver would "listen," and should I "interfere?"

Bill :

If I were you- I would write a letter and FAX it to the Treatment program and the Doctor who is treating her- expressing your concern about this. That way they will get the information and be aware.

Bill :

Because of Confidentiality issues they will not talk to you but when they get the FAX they will read it and then it is known and you have done the best that you can. I would do it if it were my Niece.

Bill :

Particularly in light of the fact that you sister is unstable.

Customer:

Okay, a fax is a good idea -- thank you so much!

Bill :

Anorexia is a potentially deadly problem and any information that you have------- I would share with the Treatment team.

Customer:

I will certainly do that.

Bill :

You are most welcome

Bill :

I wish all the best

Bill :

I appreciate your Positive Rating so that I receive Credit for my time

Bill :

Thank you

Customer:

Thank you.

Bill :

My Pleasure

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