Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder that causes an individual to self-inflict injury or illness or to fabricate symptoms of physical or mental illness in order to receive medical care or hospitalization.
Categorized as a factitious disorder (a disorder in which the physical or psychological symptoms are under voluntary control), Munchausen syndrome seems to be motivated by a need to assume the role of a patient.
While these attempts may curb the number of hospital admissions, they do not treat the underlying disorder and may endanger Munchausen sufferers that have made themselves critically ill and require treatment.
The Munchausen and Munchausen by proxy patient can appear to have a wide array of physical or psychiatric symptoms, usually limited only by their (or their caregiver's) medical knowledge.
In a variation of the disorder, Munchausen by proxy (MSBP), an individual, typically a mother, intentionally causes or fabricates illness in a child or other person under her care.
It has been theorized that Munchausen patients are motivated by a desire to be cared for, a need for attention, dependency, an ambivalence toward doctors, or a need to suffer.
A rare form of physical abuse is Munchausen syndrome by proxy, in which a caretaker (most often the mother) seeks attention by making the child sick or appear to be sick.
In both Munchausen and MSBP syndromes, the suspected illness does not respond to a normal course of treatment, and diagnostic tests turn up nothing out of the ordinary.
Some research indicates that children and adolescents who develop Munchausen syndrome are more likely to have been previous victims of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Something similar was attempted by Raspe in his Munchausen sixty years later.