Posted by: girl interrupted | 2008/08/29

munchausen' s syndrome

About 10 years ago I was in a distressful relationship with a very cruel person and I had virtually no self esteem and was on so many types of pills to wake,to go to sleep, anti depressants etc etc. At the time I started telling people I had ovarian cancer, which I didn' t have but Iconvinced my own self and the people around me that i did, in fact i never once sat and thought what i was doing was not right. i was like in autopilot - and a very unconscious scared person. while I did no harm to myself to have any symptoms i just lied to everyone. I feel so embarassed about the incident now and kind of wonder who that desperately scared girl who didnt believe she could just be loved was. I have gone for so much therapy and am ok. I know now that I was looking for love and for someone to come save me from a traumatic time in my life in a very scary relationship (which obviously echoed my own atroubled childhood). I have learnt that no one can save you but yourself. Recently I have been thinking about the incident - no one talks about it to my face - but i know people talk about it and was wondering how i could explain that time in my life withouhaving to air my whole life. I feel so sorry for lying to people, and i must say that many people when it came out that i was lying rejected me, but many more just stayed my friend and supported me and have never even asked me about it. does it sound like munchausen' s syndrome as i didnt get myself hospitalised etc
when I did therapy( for many years) the term never came up, but we worked through violence, sexual abuse, a neglected, violent and traumatic childhood, etc etc and my therapist diagnosed me as suffering from post traumatic stress, and bipolar two. i have worked very very hard to live a good life, am on no medications and my life is good. I just wonder why I did that? WHen I was little my older sister was very sick and spent over two years in and out of hospital and i sort of looked after myself. do you think that that could have made me think that the only way to get love was to be sick. could that also have been triggered off by my being in a relationship in which i was neglected and made to feel like I was no good and was not loved by the man I loved? I am just trying to understand that incident in my life. Thank you doc. I apprecaite you helping

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Our expert says:
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Firstly, it sounds sad that you don't seem to have been well treated at the start, with maybe too many drugs and too little psychotherapy. However, its good to hear that you've worked through more therapy and become OK-- well done. I"m not sure that this went as far as MUnchausens ( I am actually one of the very few people to have treated several people with Munchausens, for their real problems rather than those they were simulating ). But its not uncommon both to get hypochondriacal with depression and stress, and to be tempted to complain of physical ill-health ( which may feel more respectable than psych disorders ) to gain some support, understanding and sympathy. You might feel that you yourself might be unloveable, but that with cancer you'd deserve some caring otherwise not available to you.
Anyhow, you apparently encountered some of the major disadvantages of a Munchausen's strategy. If you want, maybe you could gently approach the topic with those good friends who have stayed, mentioning how embarrassing it seems on looking back at it, and how you now understand what happened --- as they're still with you, they'd probably understand.
A small point, but one I'm picky about --- there is no such thing as post-traumatic stress ( which would be stress AFTER a trauma ---unless an ambulance man after fetching you from an accident, drops the stretcher you're on --- the condition is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a Disorder that comes on Post / After a Traumatic Stress.
Your theory makes a lot of sense, and fits with my own experience of working with Munchausens --- maybe especially typical the fact of your sister having been genuinely ill, and receiving all the attention while you got none. And the bad relationship must have felt similarly neglectful.

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