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Thread: fyi: Münchausen by Internet

  1. #1

    fyi: Münchausen by Internet

    Source:
    Münchausen by Internet is a pattern of behavior in which Internet users seek attention by feigning illnesses in online venues such as chat rooms, message boards, and Internet Relay Chat (IRC). It has been described in medical literature as a manifestation of factitious disorder or factitious disorder by proxy. Reports of users who deceive Internet forum participants by portraying themselves as gravely ill or as victims of violence first appeared in the 1990s due to the relative newness of Internet communications. The pattern was identified in 1998 by psychiatrist Marc Feldman, who created the term "Münchausen by Internet" in 2000. It is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR.

    . . . Several high-profile cases have demonstrated behavior patterns which are common among those who pose as gravely ill, victims of violence, or whose deaths are announced to online forums. The virtual communities which were created to give support, as well as general non-medical communities, often express genuine sympathy and grief for the purported victims. When fabrications are suspected or confirmed, the ensuing discussion can create schisms in online communities, destroying some and altering the trusting nature of individual members in others.

    . . . After studying 21 cases of deception, Feldman listed the following common behavior patterns in people who exhibited Münchausen by Internet:

    * Medical literature from websites or textbooks is often duplicated or discussed in great detail.
    * The length and severity of purported physical ailments conflicts with user behavior. Feldman uses the example of someone posting in considerable detail about being in septic shock, when such a possibility is extremely unlikely.
    * Symptoms of ailments may be exaggerated as they correspond to a user's misunderstanding of the nature of an illness.
    * Grave situations and increasingly critical prognoses are interspersed with "miraculous" recoveries.
    * A user's posts eventually reveal contradictory information or claims that are implausible: for example, other users of a forum may find that a user has been divulging contradictory information about occurrence or length of hospital visits.
    * When attention and sympathy decreases to focus on other members of the group, a user may announce that other dire events have transpired, including the illness or death of a close family member.
    * When faced with insufficient expressions of attention or sympathy, a forum member claims this as a cause that symptoms worsen or do not improve.
    * A user resists contact beyond the Internet, by telephone or personal visit, often claiming bizarre reasons for not being able to accept such contact.
    * Further emergencies are described with inappropriate happiness, designed to garner immediate reactions.
    * Other forum members post on behalf of a user, exhibiting identical writing styles, spelling errors, and language idiosyncrasies, suggesting that the user has created fictitious identities to move the conversation in their direction. (Source)
    ...and:

    Source:
    Clues to Detection of False Claims

    Based on experience with two dozen cases of Munchausen syndrome through the Internet, I have arrived at a list of clues to the detection of factititous Internet claims. The most important follow:

    1. the posts consistently duplicate material in other posts, in books, or on health-related websites;
    2. the characteristics of the supposed illness emerge as caricatures;
    3. near-fatal bouts of illness alternate with miraculous recoveries;
    4. claims are fantastic, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved;
    5. there are continual dramatic events in the person's life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention;
    6. there is feigned blitheness about crises (e.g., going into septic shock) that will predictably attract immediate attention;
    7. others apparently posting on behalf of the individual (e.g., family members, friends) have identical patterns of writing. (Source)
    We have had this happen here before, so I wanted everyone to be aware of it. While we should continue to help people who come here, we need to remember that this is the Internet, so everything isn't always what it seems.
    ...it's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.

  2. #2
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    I especially found amusing the concept of someone posting that they were going into septic shock.......a little too late to be at a computer when that happens for real.

  3. #3
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    I would assume that Münchausen by Proxy by Internet would also exist as well?

    Thanks for posting this Steven. It is something important to consider when reading on the internet.
    Last edited by sjean423; 03-23-2010 at 03:49 PM.
    T7-8 since Feb 2005

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by sjean423 View Post
    I would assume that Münchausen by Proxy by Internet would also exist as well?
    Yup, its an apache module I think

  5. #5
    That's kind of sad.

  6. #6
    It is sad. I suspect that most people who do this are ill in some way, and desperately seeking the attention they crave - rather than usually wanting to hurt anyone. Although I'm sure there are a few of the latter.

    Of course, it's good to have some healthy skepticism. But, I think it's also good to err on the side of being kind - I'd rather waste some time and be "duped" by someone who isn't really ill, than be disbelieving and unkind and mistakenly hurt someone who really is sick and hurting. In the first instance, I'll easily get over it - no harm done.

  7. #7
    From the same source as Steven cites above.... (bold emphasis mine). I suspect if we were to find an IRL example on this site the following will be true.


    Such dramatic situations often polarize online communities, making many members feel ashamed for believing elaborate lies while others remain staunch supporters. Members who admit to feigning their conditions often respond by implicating the gullibility of forum members, suggesting it is their own fault for being deceived.[1][20] Feldman admits that an element of sadism may be evident in some of the more egregious abuses of trust.[13] A grief counselor named Pam Cohen, who witnessed the outpouring of emotion for Kaycee Nicole, likened the personal devastation resulting from genuine concern, sympathy, and support that forum members gave to the 19-year-old and her mother only to discover none of it was true, to "emotional rape".[6][9] Joinson and Dietz-Uhler in Social Science Computer Review, address deception perpetrated on some forums—specifically IRC and multi-user dungeons—and state that masquerading is so common that hoaxes are expected, and their perpetrators are sometimes even praised for creating realistic ones.[12]



  8. #8
    They are all to be pitied, but not all harmless. I'm still a bit shocked by the parapal incident...where her "boyfriend" went into chat and said I'd killed her of a heart attack by questioning her motives. It's a long story. Needless to say, obituaries were never produced.

    And I have no doubt that Munchausen-by-proxy exists online, hopefully it's fake and the posters aren't injuring their obsessions!
    Last edited by betheny; 03-23-2010 at 05:24 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Timaru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by betheny View Post
    They are all to be pitied, but not all harmless. I'm still a bit shocked by the parapal incident...where her "boyfriend" went into chat and said I'd killed her of a heart attack by questioning her motives. It's a long story. Needless to say, obituaries were never produced.
    .......... yes, but you can't say he/she wasn't sick, in the real world he/she was one step away from being sectioned under the mental health act!

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by betheny View Post
    They are all to be pitied, but not all harmless. I'm still a bit shocked by the parapal incident...where her "boyfriend" went into chat and said I'd killed her of a heart attack by questioning her motives. It's a long story. Needless to say, obituaries were never produced.

    And I have no doubt that Munchausen-by-proxy exists online, hopefully it's fake and the posters aren't injuring their obsessions!
    Yowie, I'm glad I missed that one!

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