Compelling story reveals the rocky path to recovery from Munchausen Syndrome

Andrea Avigal grew up in a terrifying home.  Her father was vicious and sociopathic.  He ruled and dominated what happened in their home. The only thought she remembers is survival, as her father alternated between brutally beating her mother and raping Andrea at night while her mother slept on the couch.


As a child she felt unloved and lived in constant fear.  As she grew older, the pain and emptiness that remained inside lead her into therapy several times, but she never stayed long enough to work through her childhood trauma. She met a kind man and married, and had three children. For a while, she was able to pretend to be normal.


But then her eldest child was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of two, requiring numerous surgeries, radiation treatment, and two years of chemotherapy. He went into remission, but eight years later, the cancer came back. This time, there was no viable treatment, and he passed away at the age of thirteen.


After she buried her son, she lost the desire and ability to function as a normal person. And while she loved her remaining family, her life went in a new direction.


She began to hurt herself.  She would secretly make herself sick in order to gain attention. Hundreds of hospital visits ensued as she attempted suicide, mutilation, poisoning, and making herself sick again, and again and again.


With her life spinning desperately out of control she found salvation in the form of Dr. Tom Hall.


Andrea’s story along with the unconventional therapeutic relationship that cured her is told in Secrets Unraveled: Overcoming Munchausen Syndrome.


Dr. Hall explains, “Munchausen Syndrome is a rare psychiatric disorder where people make themselves sick to gain medical attention.  They repeat their secret behavior over years, fooling doctors, family members and friends.  Andrea Avigal was an expert.”


Anyone can overcome devastating mental illness with the right kind of help.


Starting in April of 2002, when she became his patient, he had no idea how profoundly she would impact his world.


“Andrea was on a path of self-destruction, flirting with death,” he said.  “I really did not know whether I would be able to save her life.”


Here is an excerpt from the book by Dr. Tom Hall:


“I was impressed by her willingness to delve into the worst memories and her effort to move forward. I found it compelling that she wanted to keep telling me more of her incredible story. It made me feel increasingly motivated to do what I could to pull her out of her suffering. Every time I caught myself having difficulty learning about the explicit details of her past, I reminded myself that she had to live them.”


Dr. Hall and Andrea worked together for several years.  Building a trusting relationship is critical but extremely difficult.  “Patients with Munchausen maintain their deception as a means of survival.  It takes time, extraordinary patience, understanding and hard work to help them”


The intimate emails back and forth reveal the incredible depth of pain Andrea is going through and the soothing touch of a skilled therapist at work time and again.


The lessons learned have powerful and important implications to anyone who is dealing with mental illness.


  • It is crucial to not judge or confront, even when suspicions arise.  Munchausen patients almost always experienced childhood trauma and/or neglect and want a safe place to tell their stories.  Often trauma survivors need to talk about their childhood over and over again.


  • When the therapist offers validation, compassion and a constant presence, secrets of the past and present gradually come out and eventually lose their power.  The desire to be sick loses its appeal.


  • A trusting relationship replaces the safety once found in hospitals from doctors and nurses.


  • When treating Munchausen syndrome, therapists need to consider a less conventional approach, stepping “outside the box,” increasing contact, for example with emails and telephone calls in between sessions.  The healing process will occur through the power of the relationship.


Another excerpt from the book by Dr. Tom Hall:


“I find nothing more meaningful than the bond that connects human beings and the communication that creates that bond. It is something that cannot be predicted or charted, but rather unfolds spontaneously, like all things that are special in life.  Andrea’s therapy unfolded in ways I could never have imagined and ultimately reinforced the power of the relationship.”


I received this book for free and have found it very interesting! I think that this would be a very helpful book for therapists and those in the helping fields. It is quite insightful and an inspirational story.

$17.95 ISBN: 978-1-468094-8-00

Self Disclosure: I received the book for free to facilitate this feature.

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