Munchausen by Internet: Faking Illness Online

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maybe she wants to help people but does not realize she is doing the wrong thing. unless young people are asking her for advice then she is harmless. but if you want to take advice from somebody you dont know then maybe you are in need of a doctor
I can not remember, but I think it was the movie Fight Club where one of the lead actors and actresses were going to different support groups for different disorders or illnesses. (which they did not have) They actually got territorial over the groups, and had an argument over who got what group, and I think the chick even went to a support group for testicular cancer. It sounds funny, but I realize the denial is so deep in these people they are incredibly hard to reach.

that's sad but kind of funny. anybody who actually is sick knows that people don't really care.

Now that's a really sad outlook.

One person's view point doesn't make it a fact.

A refresher in reading the Original Post and article will help keep the congruity of this thread.


This is a general FYI for the membership. Unfortunately, I have witnessed at least one case of this on BB's VNS Message Board. I hope this never happens here, but it is good for everyone to be aware that this happens and not to get too emotionally tied up in forum drama.

Originally Posted by wikipedia :
Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder in which those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma in order to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. It is in a class of disorders known as factitious disorders which involve "illnesses" whose symptoms are either self-induced or falsified by the patient.
Münchausen syndrome

Originally Posted by Marc D. Feldman, M.D. :

Munchausen by Internet

For decades, physicians have known about so-called factitious disorder, better known in its severe form as Munchausen syndrome (Feldman & Ford, 1995). Here, people willfully fake or produce illness to command attention, obtain lenience, act out anger, or control others. Though feeling well, they may bound into hospitals, crying out or clutching their chests with dramatic flair. Once admitted, they send the staff on one medical goose chase after another. If suspicions are raised or the ruse is uncovered, they quickly move on to a new hospital, town, state, or in the worst cases — country. Like traveling performers, they simply play their role again. I coined the terms "virtual factitious disorder" (Feldman, Bibby, & Crites, 1995) and "Munchausen by Internet" (Feldman, 2000) to refer to people who simplify this "real-life" process by carrying out their deceptions online. Instead of seeking care at numerous hospitals, they gain new audiences merely by clicking from one support group to another. Under the guise of illness, they can also join multiple groups simultaneously. Using different names and accounts, they can even sign on to one group as a stricken patient, his frantic mother, and his distraught son all to make the ruse utterly convincing.

Clues to Detection of False Claims

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


Perhaps the most important lesson is that, while most people visiting support groups are honest, all members must balance empathy with circumspection. Group members should be especially careful about basing their own health care decisions on uncorroborated information supplied in groups. When Munchausen by Internet seems likely, it is best to have a small number of established members gently, empathically, and privately question the author of the dubious posts. Even though the typical response is vehement denial regardless of the strength of the evidence, the author typically will eventually disappear from the group. Remaining members may need to enlist help in processing their feelings, ending any bickering or blaming, and refocusing the group on its original laudable goal.
Munchausen by Internet: Faking Illness Online
more details on caring

Now that's a really sad outlook.

One person's view point doesn't make it a fact.

you are right. Maybe people have some sympathy, but sympathy isn't love, dude. only sympathy from people who love you is worth anything. Sympathy from strangers is good though. Proves people have hearts. I'm always suspicious about the overall goodness of humanity though. It seems all we do is fight and put people down, if you know any history. War and poverty and mind games to spread fear and obedience. Whatever, the evils of humanity have nothing to do with someone who's nuts. They have they're own logic, and it's not logos. That's the latin term I think, but what I mean is it's logical to them but not to other people.

It's not a doctor's job to care. It's a doctor's job to fix things. Anyone wanting sympathy should try being affable. Maybe people with munchausen really do think something is terribly wrong with them. Saying that they do it for sympathy is just speculation, right? I mean, they are sincere when they say they have this or that. And they do need a doctor, so they can realize that they're fine, unfortunately there's still a lot to discover in neuroscience.

I definitely wouldn't fake a seizure for sympathy, the most common reaction is fear, not sympathy. I'd maybe fake cancer for sympathy, anything where you are going to die, but people get annoyed when you are having seizures all the time. Interrupts school and fun stuff. :rock:
Here is a classic example.

Mother who sent healthy son to school in wheelchair in six-year scam to prove he was 'sickest boy in Britain' is jailed

  • Boy forced to wear sunglasses and hat in class
  • Drinks spiked with sugar to suggest diabetes
  • Medics operated under anaesthetic to discover illness
  • Mother pocketed £20,000 a year in benefits

A 'sadistic' mother was jailed today for subjecting her healthy son to '24 hour-a-day torture' by pretending he was severely ill to gain publicity and financial rewards.
In an astonishing six-year deception, Lisa Hayden-Johnson paraded her son around claiming he had a number of life-threatening conditions.
Craving attention and money, the 35-year-old claimed the boy suffered from cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, a metabolic disorder, diabetes, food disorders, the throat condition dysphagia and a sunlight intolerance.

In order to make people believe her bizarre lies, she forced the boy to go to school in a wheelchair, and to wear sunglasses to protect his eyes and a bright yellow and green hat so he could be easily identified in case of emergency.

The boy spent his early life in and out of hospital being examined by a stream of medical specialists, as his mother convinced them that she had correctly diagnosed her son's illnesses.
Hayden-Johnson also persuaded her son's school to spend much-needed money on improving wheelchair access for the boy.
At home she would often wear a green nurse's uniform and had transformed the boy's bedroom into a miniature hospital-style ward, complete with oxygen cylinders and boxes of medical supplies.

She even allowed him to undergo invasive gastro-surgery under general anaesthetic so doctors could examine her claims that he could not keep his food down.
Police believe she may also have spiked his drinks with sugar, so tests would back her claims that he had developed diabetes.

Hayden-Johnson pocketed around £20,000 a year in benefits, as well as free holidays which were donated to the pair by generous well-wishers.

The boy was paraded around to a string of events and television appearances including GMTV and the Children of Courage awards, where she met the Duchess of Cornwall and Cherie Blair.
She also wrote to SImon Cowell telling him about her son's terrible ordeal and was sent tickets to see the X Factor being filmed.
So convincing was Hayden-Johnson's con that even her husband was fooled, as doctors and nurses were baffled by the boy's supposed conditions.
In one magazine article in 2004 she claimed that without his food pump her son would die, and that he had an allergy so rare that there were only six documented cases in the world.
She went on to describe the torment he suffered when he watched other members of his family eating normal meals. 'What choice did we have - make him sit with us at the dinner table, watching us eat, or get him to sit alone while we all ate together?' she said. 'Either of those seemed too cruel.'

As the net closed on her and her pack of lies threatened to be exposed the defendant sank to a new low, telling police she had been raped by a mystery motorcyclist on a country road near her home in South Devon.
To make her ordeal appear more convincing she rubbed oven cleaner into self-inflicted wounds.
It was not until police announced they were close to arresting a suspect in the rape case that Hayden-Johnson eventually came clean and admitted she had lied about the rape - and the rest of her lies were exposed.

Detective Constable Mark Uren, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: 'She dedicated most of her time to convincing and deliberately deceiving medical professionals that her son was the sickest child in Britain.
'She was craving attention for herself and also to get financial rewards.
'She bullied health professionals, she was so aggressive - and her only medical qualification was as a failed nurse.
'Even his school was nervous about the way she was and bowed down to her.'
During investigations police uncovered evidence that the boy was entirely healthy, in the form of a video shot while the pair were on a cruise.
The film showed the boy, who cannot be named, running around in his swimming trunks - a far cry from being confined to a wheelchair.

DC Uren said: 'He looked like Mark Spitz or Ian Thorpe running around in his Speedos. And there was not a feeding or breathing tube in sight.
'And one family photo showed him eating the biggest carvery you have ever seen with Yorkshire puddings. And he was seen tucking into a burger and bap at a local fair - things his mum said he could not eat.'

In one instance, DC Uren said, the mother sent him to school in a pair of her own sunglasses to protect his eyes from the light. However they were too big for his head so she used Sellotape to keep them in place.

DC Uren said: 'He looked like the singer Roy Orbison.'
He added: 'And in case of an emergency at school, she also insisted he wore a fluorescent green and yellow cap so he could be easily picked out - he looked like a fishing float with the cap on.'
'His bedroom at home was like a scene out of TV's Casualty. There was a specialist bed and boxes of unopened pump feed and medical gear.'
Hayden-Johnson admitted at Exeter Crown Court child cruelty between February 2001 and October 2007 and perverting the course of justice in May 2007 over the false rape claim.
Her children - the boy and his sister - now live with their father in another part of the country.

DC Uren said: 'Both are really happy. The boy is playing sports and thriving.
'His sister grew up without the shared attention playing second fiddle and not knowing if her little brother would die.
'There was great difficulty for us getting to the truth. There were 15 huge files with both the boy and his mum's medical records going back to his birth. She constantly denied being cruel to her son.

'At no stage has she ever apologised for what she has done to her her son and her family - there has never been an explanation.'

Thankfully for those kids she did not kill him and move onto the next child. Still very disturbing the lengths an individual will go to for attention.
I really think its an illness in itself .I think it should be delt with in a kind way to direct them to a therapist where they can talk about it.
stilldancing said:
I think it should be delt with in a kind way to direct them to a therapist where they can talk about it.

I think it's easier said than done. These people are chronic liers who've got it down to a fine science. I personally have no sympathy for them just as I don't for pedofiles.

Successful treatment of people with MSP is difficult because those with the disorder often deny there is a problem. In addition, treatment success is dependent on the person telling the truth, and people with MSP tend to be such accomplished liars that they begin to have trouble telling fact from fiction.
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I think this is super sad. I mean what normally prompts someone to fake it? or force others too? I mean attention must be one thing, but there are other ways to get attention ther than subjecting themselves or loved ones to invasive tests and procedures and the like.

Also how do they get away with it for so long. I'm thinking that making it up and never actually seeing a doctor is one thing, but getting accomplished doctors to believe is just strange. Now we know why some doctors just dont seem to know much. cuz they learn on experiances too.
As people with Epilepsy we all know how there are plenty of doctors that don't get it and there must be plenty that can be fooled. Also if you have ever lied about anything you know that one lie needs to another and then kicks in the compulsive behavior of lying.

There are just so many ways that can start someone on the path to the dark side and insanity is like gravity all it takes is a little push. (Sorry but the reference to Star Wars and Batman apply and if you don't get it I understand)
I know exactly how you are talking about, Mark. When I first joined the EF, I posted asking for dietary advice and she told me that I need to eat a lot of soy because its healthy, and that in general diets have no effect on seizures.

She had toned down for a while after a few people were picking apart her lies at every post, but shes back in full force today. She now has three scars as a result of her seizures- THREE. Guess she realized she could no longer get sympathy from one. Actually she seems stuck on the number 3 lately doesn't she - what with three organizations turning her down as a volunteer too. I wonder how many people there can see exactly through her and just put up with her. She makes no effort to stick to a story. last month she was telling people there was no such thing as an aura, this week she's talking about how her aura's make her gag.

I sincerely hope she's lying about having a son
There is a person on the EF forum who is definately faking her epilepsy - claims to have been evaluated for brain surgery due to complex partial seizures 3x but has no clue what a postictal state is, and insists that it isn't possible for anyone to have postictal behavior if someone mentions it and explains what it is, Had her SSD approved sometime between 8 pm on a saturday night and 3 am on a sunday morning, (immediatley after her initial SSD denial story was debunked because of its impossibility), routinely berates photosensitive epileptics and says photosensitive people should have their seizure triggers ignored in designing epilepsy sites/forums, unless someone points out how lucky she is because she isn't photosensitive - then she is so photosensitive she can't go outside in daytime, though she works in a garden for several hours a day.

But the main problem with her, is she is constantly lying about wellknown seizures and giving people bad medical advice, using her epilepsy as the reason.If you mention diet, she'll tell you to eat a lot of soy and reduce your fat intake to stop seizures, etc. She seems to get her kicks from telling people to do things she knows will cause seizures, considering she never once gives out accurate knowledge in regards to epilepsy (even someone makin wild guesses would hit on the truth occasionally). She'll keep on posting her lies in the forum until someone posts all kinds of documented proof she can't ignore, then she turns to another thread and continues the lies there

I've my suspicious that she may not be manchausens as much as someone faking in order to engage in hostile attacks on the site, because she becomes the most anti-photosensitive right about a week before the flashing attacks occur. And she is very vocal about how the forum should not do anything to either disable flashing images, or allow users to do so themselves (She's even went so far as to once post that "no one cares about photosensitive people" and "they [photosensitive] people don't matter."
I know a lot of people that lie. But it is hurting other people which it usually does. Or involves children I simply would report them. Then I know that they would be getting the counceling that they need.And the kids would be checked on. It is a mental illness. I believe the Dr.s will treat as one.
The first time I heard of the word "munchausen" was in the movie The Wizard of Oz. It was referring to the dwarfs in the beginning part of the movie.

This unintentionially happens to a child while growing up, as I understand it. Am I wrong here? Would the child who becomes an adult then do it purposfully to their own child? Or not knowing what happened to them, would it be unintentional? Thank you for the link cinnabar. I read the whole article.

In which case the person should be told, in my opinion.
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I know a lot of people that lie. But it is hurting other people which it usually does.

Yes, it would be hurting other people. Can a doctor tell a mother how sick her child is to get more insurance money? The mother would believe the doctor who she trusts. Then the mother would be doing it unintentionally.

If it is the mother doing it purposely to her child, then the syndrome can go on for a generation or 2. The next generation mother would then think of it as a normal way of life.
Ruth, very good question. The operative word here is "intentionally".

Yes, they do it intentionally, but I think that they dont realize that the fact that they WANT to do it is where the illness lies. you have to have some sort of illness to put anyone through the pain that goes along with this. and i think that when it gets to the point that they dont want to stop, is when it becomes the illness too. like being a mascochist. you don't realize that in its self at the time, its an illness, its when you become addicted to doing it, that you then realize you have an illness that needs to be treated. Hypochondria is a different story. those people TRULY beleive that they are ill.

The first time I heard of the word "munchausen" was in the movie The Wizard of Oz. It was referring to the dwarfs in the beginning part of the movie.

I think you might be reffering to the "Munchkins" which are the dwarfs.

I do think that these people need to be treated for intentionally putting themselves through this and then being unable to stop. Now it depends here as well. DO they not stop because it continues to bring pleasure to them (like drugs) or do they not stop for fear of being "found out"
Also how do they get away with it for so long. I'm thinking that making it up and never actually seeing a doctor is one thing, but getting accomplished doctors to believe is just strange. Now we know why some doctors just dont seem to know much. cuz they learn on experiances too.

This is so easy. Many times family doctor has asked me what kind of treatment/testing I want. He will point out a few possibilites for the current problem and then want me to know how to proceed. I want to be able to give my opinion, but want him to give me informed options.

Bottom line is it would be so easy for me to just have all kinds of tests. I don't know if it would be harder with a child.

To me, it becomes criminal when they actually take actions to make the child ill versus just making claims, unless the claims are to collect money fraudulantly.
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