Maxine’s lies finally exposed in Hollyoaks – but what is Munchausen’s syndrome?

Will anyone sympathise when they find out why she faked terminal illness?

hollyoaks maxine kinsella

Hollyoaks‘ Maxine Kinsella (Nikki Sanderson) must face the music now her elaborate lie that she is dying of an incurable illness has been exposed, and she is actually in the grip of psychological condition Munchausen’s syndrome which has driven her to deceit in a desperate quest for attention.

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As husband Damon Kinsella (Jacob Roberts) faced fraud charges for stealing to pay for the couple’s wedding, believing his tragic bride had months to live, Max’s nearest and dearest were floored by Scott Drinkwell (Ross Adams) discovering medical records proving the spinal tumour she claimed to have never existed, and she’s been suffering from a personality disorder.

Doctors diagnosed her months ago but patient confidentiality prevented the truth from coming out. Best friend Sienna Blake (Anna Passey) has been in on the secret for months and only agreed to keep quiet until after Damon’s trial, as having a ‘dying’ wife appeared to be his best chance of convincing a jury not to convict him.

Maxine is officially public enemy number one in the village as the locals accuse her of scamming them for money (Damon set up a fundraising page, which This Morning even got involved with!) and playing a twisted game for attention (she had a ‘living funeral’ in August). But what exactly is Munchausen’s, and why has it made Max do something so shocking?

hollyoaks maxine kinsella damon kinsella

What is Munchausen’s syndrome? Why has Maxine developed it?

Also known as ‘factitious disorder’, Munchausen’s is described on the NHS website as a psychological condition whereby someone pretends they are seriously unwell and fabricates symptoms in order to elicit sympathy and attention from others.

It’s named after an 18th century German aristocrat, Baron Munchausen, famous for telling exaggerated tall tales about fighting the Ottomon empire – and the basis for Terry Gilliam’s 1988 fantasy film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Those who develop the illness have often been through a complex emotional trauma or faced abandonment, with the faking of illness becoming a way to feel cared for, protected and reassured.

hollyoaks maxine kinsella damon kinsella

No wonder this has happened to Maxine – years of misery and upsetting storylines have finally taken their toll on the character, following her abusive marriage to murdered Patrick Blake, the discovery her second husband Adam Donovan was cheating on her and was murdered by his gangster dad Glenn, who she then plotted to kill by teaming up with his enemies.

Can you blame her for wanting to keep nice guy Damon at her side by pretending she was sick so he wouldn’t leave? Perhaps coming clean earlier would’ve been a good idea…

There are huge consequences for Mrs Kinsella’s web of deceit, not least her husband looking at a prison sentence and Sienna being dumped by boyfriend Brody Hudson for staying silent. She’s got a lot of making up to do to a community who feel duped and conned – and viewers may also take some persuading to forgive.

Will anyone recognise she is suffering from a genuine mental illness? Is she going to get the professional, psychiatric help she so clearly needs?

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