Anyone experienced Munchausen's online? I am pretty sure that I have, at least a couple of times!
I would think that Allnurses would be a perfect site for that -- whether actual nurses or not they could use, or should I say abuse, this site in that way.
I know that for myself, when I get reeled into that situation, it is very uncomforable. I get SO ANGRY - and frustrated. Of course, my over-involvement in the FIRST place is due to my own poor boundaries! See:
MUNCHAUSEN BY INTERNET: FAKING ILLNESS ONLINE
by Marc D. Feldman
Online Support for People with Illness
The Internet is a medium of choice for millions of people who need health-related information. Medical websites have multiplied exponentially over the past several years. Thousands of virtual support groups have sprung up for those suffering from particular illnesses. Whether formatted as chat rooms, as newsgroups, or in other ways, they offer patients and families the chance to share their hopes, fears, and knowledge with others experiencing life as they are. These online groups can counter isolation and serve as bastions of understanding, deep concern, and even affection.
Unfortunately, cyberspace resources are sometimes deliberately misused by people intent on deceiving others. False product claims in spam are perhaps the best-known example. But even in the relative intimacy of health support groups, individuals may choose to mislead others by pretending to have illnesses they do not. They divert the attention of the group toward their feigned battles with cancer, multiple sclerosis, anorexia nervosa, or other ailments. The eventual discovery of the deceptions can be devastating. One group member called it "emotional rape" to have cared so deeply about a person who lied to her and others from his first post on.
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... I coined the terms "virtual factitious disorder" (Feldman, Bibby, & Crites, 1998) 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....