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 Munchausen By Internet

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Number of posts : 2207
Age : 60
Humor : Once you choose hope, anything’s possible. -Christopher Reeve
Registration date : 2008-11-09

PostSubject: Munchausen By Internet   Tue 04 Jun 2013, 1:53 pm

I recently came across an article that I wanted to share with all of you. The subject is one that is not uncommon within online support groups. In fact as the use of online communities grow so do the occurrences of Munchausen by internet.
This is a lengthy article but I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

Munchausen by Internet: The Lying Disease that Preys on the Heart

We all know how it feels to discover that we've been lied to. Have you considered the possibility that you have been the victim of an elaborate online deception? Members of online social communities have fallen victim to deceitful members who prey upon their heart with their carefully woven webs of deceit. Find out how you can protect yourself from this type of scam.
For decades, people have heard of Munchausen syndrome, a disorder characterized by people taking extraordinary measures to fake illnesses or psychological trauma for the sole purpose of attracting attention and sympathy from others. Munchausen sufferers will do almost anything to validate the delusion of their illness. Another variation of this disorder is Munchausen by proxy, in which people physically or psychologically harm loved ones to gain attention and sympathy. In more recent years, a newer variation of this disorder has been noted to infect online communities.

Internet traffic has exploded over the past two decades, providing users with instant access to information and networking with others. With the increasing number of online users and formation of online social communities and support groups, beginning in the 1990’s there have been increasing reports of users who have deceived internet forum participants by portraying themselves as gravely ill or as victims of violence or psychological trauma. The internet was made for such fakers. Arming themselves with medical knowledge obtained through hours of perusing the internet, these users create intricate online stories of prolonged suffering and even death which end up being nothing more than fabrications.

A pattern for this new Munchausen variation was identified in 1998 by Dr. Marc Feldman, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Alabama, and an expert on Munchausen syndrome and factitious disorder. Dr. Feldman coined the term “Munchausen by Internet” in an article published in 2000, “Munchausen by Internet: Detecting Factitious Illness and Crisis on the Internet”. This disorder is essentially the same as the better known Munchausen syndrome, with the main difference being that people carry out their deceptions online. "On the Internet," Feldman explains, "it's very easy to fake. All you have to do is click and you go to another disease site. You can become an expert on anything in 30 minutes by visiting Google." At first, Munchausen by Internet was most common in online medical support groups, but variations of it now show up anywhere that people socialize online, such as social networking sites, blogs, forums, discussion groups and chat rooms. The fictitious stories can take months and even years to play out.

These deceivers are usually not newcomers to the site, but instead have already begun to weave their story of deception, making online friends while they are setting the stage. They portray themselves as incredible, wonderful and charismatic people. The drama unfolds in different ways but usually involves a sudden revelation by the writer that they have contracted a serious illness. They may have already disclosed lesser challenges they have previously faced, just to ensure they have sympathetic listeners. All the time while weaving their web of deception, they are bravely coping with whatever tragic situation or string of situations they are facing. They go on to provide details of their declining situation, including hospitalizations, doctor appointments, treatments, etc. Many times their condition/hospitalization will preclude them from using a computer, thus making it possible for another fictitious character to enter the picture and post in their place. This is usually a close friend or family member(s). They refrain from divulging their location or contact information such as telephone number. Most of these liars end up having shocking, sudden, or especially poignant deaths which is relayed by someone close to them. There may be a miraculous recovery, followed by relapses and more drama..... and prolonged suffering for both them and their followers. It will go on and on........

Put yourself in the place of one of the targeted “victims.” At first, you are greatly saddened by the predicament of which the member posts. You want to help. You may even offer support. You find yourself drawn into the drama as it continues to unfold with layer upon layer of catastrophic detail. Slowly, you notice the story contains more and more discrepancies. You tend to make excuses for these inconsistencies, thinking the faker’s thought processes may be clouded by the medications and illness. As the lies continue to pile up, you slowly come to the realization that you've “been had”. And on that day, you feel like a total doofus. There is an overwhelming sense of betrayal as you realize you have been lied to, used, and manipulated. You may even feel angry at the perpetrator.

Once you have been fooled by one of these liars, looking back you will see more and more inconsistencies and red flags in their story. While the stories vary greatly, the behavior of these people is consistent enough that Dr Feldman has described seven “clues to detection of false claims” based on numerous case studies.

The posts consistently duplicate material in other posts, in books, or on health-related websites;

The characteristics of the supposed illness emerge as caricatures based on the individual’s misconceptions;

    Near-fatal bouts of illness alternate with miraculous recoveries;

    Claims are fantastic, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved (e.g. a call to the hospital reveals that there is no such patient);

    There are continual dramatic events in the person’s life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention;

    The individual resists telephone contact or contact via mail, sometimes offering odd justifications

    There is feigned blitheness about crises (e.g., going into septic shock) that will predictably attract immediate attention;

    Others apparently posting on behalf of the individual (e.g., family members, friends) have identical patterns of writing.

What motivates people to do this? Dr. Feldman states that the clue to their motivation “may lie in the power granted by online communities to quantify the sympathy for an illness or the shock of a death via comment boxes or replies to a journal thread.” These fakers can sit back and read the comments of support from numerous readers who are following the created saga as their illness progresses. They relish the thought that their words are eliciting sadness and tears. “It feeds the desire of the narcissist and provides the lonely with the attention that they may never previously have known.”

We know that this type of behavior will only increase as others take their lies to the internet. So what can we do? How do we respond? These people are seeking attention, so indifference is one of our defense tactics. As nurses on a nursing website or in any real-life situations we should of course be compassionate and supportive of others in genuine need. Most people online and in real life, are usually telling something close to the truth most of the time. They may embellish their story a bit, but nothing close to what we are referring to here.

As an online nursing community, we are susceptible to being used by Munchausen by Internet sufferers, as well as deceptive posters in general. Because we are nurses, we are very caring people. We are trained to help folks. People like this know how to prey on others......they know all the right buttons to push. It is easy for us to get caught up in this type of scam. This is a lesson for all of us to learn. We cannot always trust what people post online. We should be alert and question the veracity of online assertions and balance empathy with circumspection. You must guard yourselves against getting sucked in. It is also important to not provide personal information to members you do not know.

If you suspect a member is posting deceitful information with the characteristics of this disorder, it is best to report your suspicions to the Administrators of this site or the site on which you are participating. They will take actions to investigate the matter. are dealing with someone who is mentally ill, and their response to confrontation is unpredictable. Upon discovery of false posting, most Munchausen by internet scammers leave after possible denials. They search to find another online group on which they can prey.

Let me leave you with one last thought. We have always heard the phrase “If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.” In this case... If it seems too bad to be true, it probably isn't".


"I will let yesterday end so that today can begin."
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Blue Eyes

Number of posts : 535
Age : 55
Humor : When you know better, you do better....Oprah Winfrey
Registration date : 2012-01-23

PostSubject: Re: Munchausen By Internet   Sat 08 Jun 2013, 6:54 pm

Hello Dee,

Sorry, I am just responding to this. You know how sick Ive been !!!

I have experience with Munchausen (and Munchausen by proxy) in real life. I work with some one that shows many of these signs.
I have also, believe it or not, seen it online.
I once read a blog that a women with 5 children wrote. I started to see discrepancies with her writings/stories and come to found out so did alot of other people. Someone had started what they called a "hate/bully blog" on her and that went on for many years untill she closed her blog.
I know the signs. But I'm glad you posted it so others learn the signs. Especially with the type of online work we do, helping people, it's so very easy to be caught up with something that just doesn't seem right. It's easy to walk away from online however.

If you suspect you've come in contact with some one that is not being truthful especially with an addiction, my advice is don't get to close to these people. Keep them at arm's length and keep your guard up. Stay professional and polite and just don't get to involved or attached. People get hurt and it's not them, it's the victims they try and scam.

You start to believe their stories, there is always some horrible incident or drama that needs immediate attention and after that is squashed, there is another one around the corner. Unfortunately it becomes that each incident is more unbelievable or outrageous then the next - and the problem is, it gets harder to prove and therefore harder to believe , iv'e seen it first hand. I HAVE BEEN THERE !!!

Most people come to realize pretty quick that someone has pulled the wool over their eyes so to speak and tend to back off regardless.

Now you know the signs ! Keep an eye out and don't let someone put you in a position that ultimately is a lie.

Join us for live chat every Tuesday night at 7:30pm EST !!!

NEVER take any online advice over that of a qualified healthcare provider.
Any information you read here should only serve to inspire you to investigate further with credible, verifiable referenced sources or your doctor.
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