I Am Concerned My Daughter-In-Law Is a Hypochondriac Mother
Dear Worried Nana,
Being worried about your grandchildren is distressing and difficult in that you have limited recourse as to be direct in making a change to their lives. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is typically pattern of behavior in which caregivers deliberately exaggerate, fabricate, and/or induce physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in others. The motivation is to assume the sick role by proxy, and in the sick role to have greater attention given to them. Hypochondria typically persist even after a doctor has evaluated a person and reassured them that their concerns about symptoms do not have an underlying medical basis. Hypochondriac by proxy & Munchausen syndrome by proxy are difficult concerns to address. As a grandparent, you are very limited in what you can do directly. It sounds like confronting your daughter-in-law could lead to estrangement or a fight. You have taken steps to address this issue by talking with your son and other family members. Munchausen syndrome is very difficult to diagnose because it is based on the intent of the mother acting in this way for attention for herself vs. providing care needed for her children. Based on your letter what help does your daughter-in-law need?
Is her potential hypochondrium so great that it is beginning to affect the children? Is your daughter-in-law so worried about her children being sick that she has become overly anxious? Often new and young parents worry constantly about being a good parent or making mistakes. She could be worrying and does not want to show anyone that she is not a good mother, by asking for help or advice. You could try to reassure her that all children get sick from time to time and that you as a mother with a lot of experience would be glad to be a resource for her. Then if she asks for help, you can gently give her advice about what worked for you when you were a mother.
Is she working with a counselor and is there a way it can be gently suggested that she talk to someone about the stress and anxiety of raising children? Often times in my practice I have to remind parents that children do not come with instruction manuals and that by reading, and asking for help, we can learn to be better parents. Keep a journal or a log of the events that are happening with the children so that you have something you can reference as you are dealing with this problem. Lastly, if nothing else seems to be helping the situation you can contact a therapist to discuss these issues in more depth for yourself.
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Curt EJuly 11th, 2012 at 6:01 AM
If your son is unwilling to acknowledge the problem and there is no harm that you have occurring to the children other than their frequency of going to the doctor I don’t think there is much that you can do. I wouldn’t risk estranging your son by pushing the issue any further, if you have a joint Dr. you may want to talk with him or her about the issues.
WaldoAugust 18th, 2015 at 11:52 AM
Nice article !
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