Dee Dee Blanchard was a seemingly devoted mother who would do anything for her supposedly sickly child, but as the new HBO documentary Mommy Dead and Dearest reveals, Blanchard's daughter Gypsy was actually not sick at all. Instead, Gypsy's mom made her believe from early age that she suffered from cancer and other physical and mental handicaps, despite this not being the case. It's believed that Gypsy was a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and after watching Mommy Dead and Dearest, you'll want to read up on the scary condition to see how horrible its effects truly can be.
As reported by the Mayo Clinic, Munchausen syndrome is a disorder in which a person deliberately acts as if they have a physical or mental illness when they're not actually sick, and the "by proxy" label refers to a person making someone else seem like they're sick when they're really healthy. It is considered a mental illness caused by biological and physiological factors, and abuse, in any capacity, is believed to be a root cause as well.
The HBO crime documentary catalogs the mystery behind the Blanchards, spotlighting the murder of Blanchard by Gypsy but also peeling the layers back on the events leading up to the matricide. By way of tapes, medical records, and access to Gypsy's personal account of the events, the director manages to home in on the markers that make up Munchausen syndrome and its different forms. Here are some things you need to know about the syndrome as it relates to MDAD.
1A Person With Munchausen Syndrome May Never Admit To Falsifying Symptoms
According to Medical News Today, Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is recommended for those with Munchausen syndrome. The problem is, getting people with the disorder to own their falsities makes it an extremely tough road to recovery.
2Medications Are Not Recommended
Due to the fact that a person with Munchausen syndrome has a history of faking symptoms, misusing prescriptions is a likely result, according to Better Health Channel.
3Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy Is What Gypsy Did To Dee Dee
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) is where a person produces bogus symptoms in someone else, usually their own child, according to Medicine Net.
4The Syndrome Can Be Caused By Very Low Self-Esteem
According to the Center For Psychotherapy Research Stuttgart, low self-esteem can be a cause, and it's possible that in this case, Gypsy's mother was reacting to her own low self-image.
5Those Who Suffer Aren't Usually After Financial Gain, But Emotional Support
This, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The Blanchard family was gifted with trips to Disney and even a wheelchair accessible house but the emotional support they received from strangers and those they called friends was the most substantial.
6The Syndrome Was Named After Baron Von Munchausen
Baron von Munchausen was an 18th-century officer who was known for exaggerating stories and his own truths, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
7In Proxy Cases, The Caregiver Often Works In Health Care And Knows A Lot About Medical Care
Medline Plus reports this. In this case, Dee Dee once worked as a nurse aide and became experienced with medical terminology.
8Treatment Involves Being Removed From The Direct Care Of The Parent
Dee Dee led a secret digital life from her mother as it was the only escape from her mother. Being separated from her mother was a necessary step to take, according to the New York Times.
9It's Estimated That 1 Percent Of The U.S. Population Meet The Criteria For Munchausen Syndrome
According to Medicine Net, there are no hard statistics, though it's believed that hospital populations can aid in estimating this percentage.
10Those Likely To Develop Munchausen Syndrome Are 20 To 40 Years Old
This goes for MSBP as well, according to Medicine Net, which is true for Dee Dee Blanchard when she had and raised Gypsy.
11Symptoms Include Making Up Lab Results, Heating Up Thermometers, And Witholding Food
In addition to all of the above, according to the New York Times, mothers will often drug their children, or fool physicians by adding blood to fecal samples.
Mommy Dead and Dearest is as tragic as it is horrifying. Mental illnesses can seem invisible, and so it can be hard to identity them, but it's important to seek help if you're suffering or know someone who might be.