Munchausen by Internet

Munchausen by Internet (MBI) is a pattern of behavior in which a person seeks attention and sympathy by feigning illnesses in online venues such as forums and social media sites. A manifestation of Munchausen Syndrome (or FDIS), reports began surfacing in the 1990s as the internet became ubiquitous and vast amounts of medical literature suddenly became accessible. The anonymous and malleable nature of online identities, and the existence of communication forums established for the sole purpose of giving support, make it a breeding ground for those involved in medical deception. The term was coined by Dr. Feldman in 2000 to delineate this manifestation of medical deception from its real-life counterpart. In MBI, an individual’s medical deception lives only (or primarily) in the virtual realm. They often completely fabricate their lives and are differentiated from Munchausen Syndrome patients who act out these symptoms in real life. As the online pretender may acquire little or no money or other gifts, there is little legal recourse when the deceit is revealed.

Warning Signs of Munchausen by Internet

  • The posts consistently duplicate material in other posts, in books, or on health-related websites.
  • The characteristics of the supposed illness emerge as caricatures.
  • Near-fatal bouts of illness alternate with miraculous recoveries.
  • The claims are fantastic, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved.
  • There are continual dramatic events in the person’s life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention.
  • There is feigned blitheness about crises that will predictably attract immediate attention.
  • Others apparently posting on behalf of the patient (e.g., family members, friends) have identical patterns of writing.

Read More:

The Guardian / Interview where the term was popularized Empowerment Vs. Deceit: The Darker Side of Digital Health Communities / Medical Technology Why One Woman Faked a Health Crisis Online/ Cosmopolitan Cybersickness / The Village Voice Daily Dot / The Rise of Medical Crowdfunding Scams Kid Spot / I Was Fooled By a Mums’ Group Catfish ABC / Hoax Hunters–Munchausen by internet: What drives people to fake an illness online? Nightline/ Uncovering the Dying Daughter Hoax that Lured in Several Celebrities Slate / Sick of the Internet: Has Our Online Existence Created New Mental Disorders