Munchausen Syndrome by proxy: What is it and why is TikTok obsessed?
Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) involves a caretaker, typically a parent, purposely making the person they’re caring for sick. TikTok star Ren has some powerful, firsthand experience with MSBP and even made a video detailing her experience. The twenty-four year old’s video is one of her most popular on the social media platform.
As a child, Ren grew up with a mother who forced her to use a wheelchair for two years so she could amass recognition & sympathy for her role as Ren’s “caretaker”. Giving you Hulu’s The Act vibes, no? Ren claimed she believes her mother had Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Ren’s candid & darkly humorous TikToks shed light on the disorder. “People don’t know just the amount of pure brainwashing that comes with this disorder,” she said. “Kids are conditioned into believing what their parents tell them. Even though it wasn’t until I was in sixth grade that my mom put me in the wheelchair, she started programming me to believe I was a sick child when I was very, very young.”
Comfort sharing her story
Ren has quickly found her footing on TikTok, and the TikTok influencer is grateful the social media app doesn’t force her to paint her life as picture perfect. Speaking about other platforms like Facebook & Instagram, Ren asserted: “I feel like Instagram and Facebook and all those other platforms, you have to put a filter over your life and only project the best of you.”
Ren continued, “But once I started noticing how vulnerable people were being on TikTok, and how they were getting support from other users, and how TikTok shows you communities you belong in, I started seeing TikTok as more & more of a safe space.”
MSBP in pop culture
According to the Cleveland Clinic, Munchausen syndrome by proxy is said to be rare. There are “no reliable statistics” on the number of people who suffer from it – or the victims who have a false reality forced on them by people with MSBP. Despite this, the condition is spotlighted in popular true crime shows like The Act, and was also seen in an episode of Law & Order: SVU.
TikTok’s #munchausenbyproxy stories
There’s a rising “put a finger down” video trend used to shed light on different situations, including child abuse. TikTokers like Rey have also created multipart “storytime” threads with the accompanying hashtag #munchausenbyproxy. They also mentioned the syndrome in their captions, further showcasing their childhood medical trauma at the hands of those meant to keep them out of harm’s way.
By banding together to create a safe space for young people to share their unique experiences, these TikToker’s simple videos make way for a larger discussion.
Many TikTokers also shared their stories in secret, fearing retaliation from their caregivers with Munchausen by proxy. Ren disclosed her family isn’t aware of her TikTok presence. She told viewers she’d prefer to keep it that way, but is willing to risk her mother finding out in order to share her story and help others.
Reply to @elizabeth_grace_w Keep the questions coming! I’m trying to answer as many as I can! #munchausenbyproxy #BeConvincing #traumarecovery #alttok
♬ original sound – Ren
One TikToker, 25-year-old Missouri Native Jordyn, wrote a song for her mother – and performed it on an acoustic guitar. She posted herself performing it in July, with a Frank, succinct caption: “Letter to alcoholic and abusive mother with Munchausen By Proxy.”
“I know that you were very ill, but/In order to stay sane the door must remain shut/Otherwise the life that I’ve created will drift away,” Jordyn sings in the video, strumming along. Jordyn grew up being bullied as a result of all the fake medical conditions her mother imposed on her. “I was always told I was faking things, that I was making things up,” she said. “I mean, a lot of it was made up, but I didn’t know that!”
Jordyn’s TikToks speak openly about her experiences to help others with their own healing journeys. “I definitely worry at times, and sometimes I’ll feel regret that I’ve shared so much, because I can’t take it all back,” Jordyn said. “But overall, I’m just grateful. Because if sharing my story helps even one person get help or heal, that’s worth it. I really just want people to know that healing is possible.”