Many online tales of death and suffering are works of complete fiction, "pseuicides" dressed up as real-life catastrophes. Some are contrived to titillate or garner attention, some result from something more serious, and some are the result of a uniquely modern psychiatric disorder known as Munchausen by internet.
"I think the explanations are broader than simply seeking attention," said Dr Marc Feldman, a psychiatrist who has studied thousands of cases of factitious disorders, and watched as the internet has propagated an increase in such frauds. "In some situations, the deceptions are so engaging and heart-rending that I believe there is an undeniable element of sadism."
In two investigations between 2007 and 2009, I encountered countless examples of fake deaths in all corners of the online world. A contributor to a knitting forum, for instance, faked her death rather than provide patterns she had been commissioned to design. A member of an online art gallery discovered that the 18-year-old, gay, male, lead-singer of a rock band, with whom she had developed a close friendship before he was killed in a car crash, was actually the work of two 14-year-old girls, who had entirely invented his life. A teenage British boy broke up with his real-life girlfriend to marry a 16-year-old online friend, later discovering (on her "death") that his deceased wife-to-be was a 12-year-old fantasist who had been sending photos of her older cousin and inventing graphic details of incest and rape.
except it's nt really likely to qualify as Munchausen's
Illinois blogger apologizes for pregnancy hoax, says she's struggling with 'unresolved pain'
By Associated Press
8:04 PM CDT, June 15, 2009
MOKENA, Ill. (AP) " A suburban Chicago blogger says she's sorry for duping Internet readers with a hoax in which she claimed to be pregnant with a terminally ill child.
Twenty-six-year-old Beccah Beushausen of Mokena posted a lengthy apology on her blog Sunday.
She's admitted concocting a story about carrying her child to term rather than having an abortion because of her Christian faith. Her Web site attracted nearly a million hits, and people offered to pray for her.
Last week, she said she'd given birth and posted photos. But a follower recognized the infant as a doll.
Beushausen says she started lying because she's struggling with unresolved pain, but offered few specifics.
A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for Beushausen's mother declined comment Monday.
Münchausen Syndrome and Factitious Disorders
(Peter S. Kahrmann, The Kahrmann Blog, June 11, 2009)
During a class on crisis intervention nearly 25 years ago the question of how to response to someone threatening suicide when, it turns out, they don't mean it, came up. The answer rings true to this day. If someone is threatening suicide and they don't mean it, then the heartbreaking tragedy rests in the person's belief that unless they come up with a lie that big, no one will care about or pay attention to the pain they are in.
I believe it is the same with Münchausen Syndrome or Factitious Disorders, where a person will feign some kind of illness or malady to draw attention to themselves and, in the sphere of Münchausen Syndrome, a person will exaggerate or create symptoms in their children, Münchausen's by proxy. What reading I have done shows that those with Münchausen's (or a Factitious Disorder) are often highly knowledgeable on the medical front, well versed in medical terminology, medications, treatments.
In some cases persons with Münchausen's will intentionally bring about the symptoms of a disease or inflict medical harm to themselves so they actually need medical treatment, hospitalization.
Antecedents for this syndrome are often found in trauma, being raised in a home where affection was in short supply, if present at all, and more, suffering abuse.
While encountering someone who is faking a disease or medical condition can at first provoke anger, the anger, while understandable, is misplaced. Consider this, on some level this person believes that if they do not convince the world there is something terribly wrong with them, no one will care about them and no one will love them.
The task then is to guide the person to a professional counselor, and help them discover that all they have to do to be cared about and loved, is be themselves. They have several hurdles(he wrote, practicing the art of understatement), one of them is to openly admit they have been misleading people about their condition. This takes time, patience, love and support and, I would think, does not happen all at once.
While they may not have the conditions they claim to have, they have a very real disorder, and deserve love, support, and professional help. All of us deserve to discover that simply being who we are, one day a time, is more than enough reason for others to care about us.