Real or Imagined: 10 Most Shocking Munchausen Cases

While most people hate being sick, some love the attention that comes with having an illness or knowing someone who does. They enjoy the thrill of being around hospitals, discussing conditions with nurses and doctors, and receiving sympathy from family, friends and even strangers.

Munchausen syndrome is a factitious mental disorder in which a person pretends to be ill in order to gain attention. Munchausen by proxy is a similar mental illness in which a person pretends someone else is sick, most often a child, and can even go so far as to purposely inflict or injure their children to corroborate their lie.

Typical symptoms of someone who has Munchausen or Munchausen by proxy include sensational yet conflicting medical records, an excitement over doctors, hospitals and medical treatments, frequent relapses following treatment, unclear symptoms, and a history of visiting multiple doctors until they’re given the diagnosis they want.

Here are 10 of the most bizarre cases of Munchausen or Munchausen by proxy that have been uncovered to date.

Belle Gibson

Belle Gibson was a popular Australian “clean eating” blogger, app creator, and cookbook writer who turned her cancer diagnosis into a thriving business. She amassed more than 200,000 followers on social media and was written up by the likes of Elle and Cosmopolitan magazine. Gibson’s company promoted the idea that she warded off cancer with healthy eating and holistic medicine, and even claimed to donate much of her earnings to charity, but none of those things turned out to be true.


After questions arose about her ever changing story, Gibson admitted that not only did she not have cancer, but she’d been living large off money that she was supposed to have donated. Legal action has since been brought against Gibson for falsely promoting cancer treatments and endangering consumers. She could face up to $1 million in fines.

Gypsy Rose Blancharde

Twenty-three year old Gypsy Rose Blancharde was a small, weak girl who’d spent her entire childhood in a wheelchair and who’s devoted mother, Dee Dee, stayed by her side as a caretaker nearly 24/7. Gypsy suffered from defects, epilepsy, asthma, and muscular dystrophy, often needed an oxygen mask and a feeding tube, and had the mental capacity of a seven-year-old according to Dee Dee.

Or did she? In 2015, Dee Dee’s body was discovered lying in a pool of blood in their Missouri home with Gypsy nowhere to be found. It was later revealed that Gypsy had never been sick at all and had actually been abused by her mother for years. Gypsy and the boyfriend she enlisted to help her escape her mother’s clutches are both currently awaiting trial for first-degree murder.

Hope Ybarra

Fort Worth area media outlets released numerous stories in the early 2000s about a courageous mom named Hope Ybarra who was battling her daughter’s cystic fibrosis along with her own third bout of cancer — or so everyone thought. Ybarra wrote frequently about her impending death on her well-read blog.

It turned out that not only did she not have cancer, she’d been faking her daughter’s illness as well, putting her through four years of needless surgeries and procedures. Ybarra admitted to regularly draining her daughter’s blood, which on one occasion caused the girl to go into anaphylactic shock, which could have been lethal. Hope Ybarra is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for her crimes.

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