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  1. #1
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    Munchausen by Internet

    An online sickness
    by Vaughan Bell
    February 18, 2013

    The first academic review article on ?Munchausen by Internet? ? where people fake the identity of an ill person online ? has just been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

    Munchausen syndrome is a common name for facticious disorder where people consciously fake illnesses for their own gain.

    This is distinguished from malingering ? where the gain would be something obvious like money, drugs or missing military service ? and instead the gain from factitious illness typically includes the indirect benefits of faking ? like being cared for, avoiding family conflict and so on.

    The person is deliberately faking but they may not be fully conscious of all the emotional benefits ? they might just say ?it feels right? or ?it helps me?.

    Obviously, this has been a problem for millennia but there has been an increasing recognition that the phenomenon happens online. People take up the identity of someone with an illness that gives them a special place in an online community.

    This could be a standard online community where their ?illness? becomes a point of social concern, or their pretence could allow them to participate in an online community for people with certain disorders or conditions.

    The article gives lots of example and some ways of spotting Munchausen fakers that also gives an insight into their thinking:


    • Posts consistently duplicating material in other posts, books, or health-related websites.
    • Characteristics of the supposed illness emerging as caricatures.
    • Near-fatal bouts of illness alternating with miraculous recoveries.
    • Fantastical claims, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved.
    • Continual dramatic events in the person?s life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention.
    • Feigned blitheness about crises that will predictably attract immediate attention.
    • Others apparently posting on behalf of the individual having identical patterns of writing.


    The piece gets quite wordy at times (well, it is an academic article) but it?s an interesting insight into a motivations of people who ?fake sick? on the internet.

    Link to full text of article.

  2. #2
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    Re: Munchausen by Internet

    I am a member of other groups and sites and I am very leery of others. One site,I did think a person was faking. But that was after I noticed that every time someone started a thread about a particular subject,they made a journal entry about the same thing,only the exact same thing was happening to them. Even the stories they were telling were posted elsewhere on the forum.The only difference was this person claimed these things happened to THEM.If someone posted about ritual abuse,and gave details,this person told the story in their journal,the same story.

    I did confront the person via personal message,and this person told me about another illness they have that caused them to fake the other illness. So I blocked this person and just try to ignore any and all posts made by him/her.

    It's hard to trust people.I think it's even harder online because you aren't seeing them face to face and know nothing about them and have to take what they say as the truth until proven otherwise.

  3. #3
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    Re: Munchausen by Internet

    I did actually know someone that faked being very ill with cancer in the site I used to help host

    It caused an absolute furore when it was discovered to be a lie many people who had offered sympathy and support reacted rather angrily and it took years for the subject not to be a thorny issue.

    It is so easy for fantasy and reality to blur between real life and the internet world.

    We can be something that is either admired or pitied or desired far easier than in real life.

    So I think it is only natural that these aspects of behaviour that exist already become more acute like everthing else once transferred to the internet.

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    Re: Munchausen by Internet

    Quote Originally Posted by W00BY View Post
    I did actually know someone that faked being very ill with cancer in the site I used to help host
    That's so horrible!

    I know people in real life that have faked all kinds of serious illnesses. I don't understand how anyone could do that,especially when they know the truth will eventually come out.

  5. #5
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    Re: Munchausen by Internet

    Do people do this with mental illnesses as well as physical ones?

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    Re: Munchausen by Internet

    Yes.

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    Re: Munchausen by Internet

    I've done a lot of reading on Munchausens and I guess with the Internet having gone the way it has it was only a matter of time before "Munchausen by Internet" appeared.

    It is almost more difficult with this because how do you get someone help if you either don't know they are sick or don't even know who they really are? I guess it's kind of tough and in the online world you can only do what you can do.

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