S Someone on your facebook feed is disabled or sick. They regularly post about their daily struggles, medical appointments, therapy appointments, and emergencies. In most cases, these situations are genuine. But sometimes, it is all a lie.
The term “Munchausen's Syndrome by Internet” was coined in 2000 by Dr. Marc Feldman, a leading authority in Munchausen’s Syndrome and Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, now called Factitious Disorder and Factitious Disorder by Proxy in medical literature. Munchausen’s Syndrome describes a pattern in which a person induces, creates, exaggerates, deliberately worsens, or lies about having one or more illnesses or disabilities. In Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, the person displays the same behavior, only the illness or disability is created, exaggerated, worsened, or lied about in someone else. Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet occurs when a person uses the internet to perpetuate one of these disorders.
As with the other forms of Factitious disorder, Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet is carried out with the primary goal of controlling others, and/or gaining attention, sympathy, nurturing, or pity. While the person may have a secondary goal of getting money, gifts, or time off from work or school, this will not be their primary motivation. A person who makes themselves or someone else out to be in worse shape than they are with the primary goal of gaining resources or avoiding any type of work is “malingering,” not engaging in Munchausen’s behavior.
Here are just a few of the most common signs of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet.
The condition is “too textbook.”
In any medical condition, the patient has to have a certain number of symptoms of the disability or illness, as judged by a medical professional qualified to make the diagnosis, in order to be diagnosed with something. The specifics, including the specific number and pattern of symptoms, will vary according to the condition. However, almost no medical problem requires absolutely every, or even most, of the possible symptoms or signs for a diagnosis.
Those using the internet to exaggerate or falsify a condition often claim too many symptoms. They seem to have everything wrong with them that a person could possibly experience with the disorder or disability they claim. Sometimes, the posts are more realistic, but sound as though they're copied from case studies in a textbook, or are in such a different voice than the person's normal tone, they seem copied from another website or a book.
Posts contain contradictions
Despite their careful attention to faking or exaggerating a condition, Munchausen by Internet perpetrators tend to get caught up in the drama they create and make mistakes. A person who claims they have debilitating allergies and respiratory problems may claim they cannot be around any type of fumes, then post photos of themselves getting a chemical treatment at a salon when urged to “treat yourself.” Or they might make one post about their condition making them unable to eat, then post a photo, but forget to edit the edge of their dinner plate out of the shot.
Claims go to extremes, and often swing from one to the other
People with genuine disabilities and illnesses cope with a wide variety of experiences. Some are dramatic, but many are mundane. They must cope with everyday challenges and issues, that may or may not be interesting to their followers on social media.
In falsified or overblown situations, the perpetrator often behaves as though their condition is made up entirely of extremes. They may repeatedly claim a miraculous healing followed by a life-threatening or dramatic emergency. New, intense symptoms might develop regularly.
Something seems to happen to them anytime something happens to anybody else.
This sign is the easiest to see in online support groups. The Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet perpetrator will often post about an illness or disability related tragedy or a miraculous improvement immediately after anyone else gains attention for something they post. But the person may also post to their personal page anytime anyone on their friends or contact list posts anything that gains attention. Watch for dramatic posts soon after a mutual friend gains attention online, or for the suspected Munchausen’s by Internet perpetrator to comment on a post, and then add something attention-getting to their own page.
The person’s life is full of tragedy of all kinds
Because the person’s primary goal is to gain attention, they are often willing to expand their efforts outside of their alleged illness or disability. Watch out for people whose lives are not only a constant battle against an illness or disability, but a series of serious issues or tragedies.
Friends, family members and other supporters sound suspiciously like the individual in question.
Some Munchausen’s by Internet perpetrators go so far as to create fake accounts. These are designed to make their condition seem more real, and because they know that we tend to follow virtual crowds on social media. Seeing somebody else offer encouragement or sympathy is likely to encourage us to add our comment. One of the most telltale signs of these invented family members, friends, and other supporters is that they sound an awful lot like the person they’re supposedly talking to. They may use the same terms, make similar word choices, or talk about the exact same topics.
Anyone who suspects someone else of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet can only look out for themselves and others. Quietly withdraw your attention from the person’s posts or page. Reach out to others privately if they seem to be getting drawn in. Openly challenging or arguing with the suspected perpetrator will only get you cast as the villain in their narrative.
by Jess Szabo'
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
by Jess Szabo originally published on Artist Cafe Utica www.artistcafeutica.com