Munchausen by Internet: The Lying Disease that Preys on the Heart

We all know how it feels to discover that we've been lied to. Have you considered the possibility that you have been the victim of an elaborate online deception? Find out how you can protect yourself from this type of scam. Nurses General Nursing Article


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Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia.

We've been discussing this extensively on another forum I participate in It came to light in regard to a thread/story which has blown up over there. In this case, the mother of a young woman who took her own life has spun this gigantic story about stalking/murder/porphyria/CO poisoning.

Then there is the family who was on Extreme Makeover:Home Edition whose mother claimed her two girls had some strange malady, and this story has totally unraveled. (This is, I believe, a case of MBP which has an internet presence)

There's a difference, I suppose between the person who seeks ATTENTION and the person who seeks MONEY for their supposed affliction.

Anyway, I work in a peds hospital, and the whole MBP thing is so evil.

I was once on the other side, so to speak. In early 2000 I was very sick and we didn't know why. I couldn't keep anything down and was in a lot of pain and we didn't know why. I was having to get IV fluids a minimum of 3x per week just to keep hydrated! Unfortunately, my tests were coming back negative so we didn't know what was wrong. This went on for almost 3 years!! My doctor finally asked if he could consult with the in-house psychiatrist to see if she could pick up on anything we might be missing. I told him to go ahead if he felt she might be able to provide some answers. In the meantime, I had to quit my job because I wasn't able to continue working when I was constantly in the clinic getting IVs, etc. My disability attorney sent me a copy of my medical records and I read that the in-house psychiatrist diagnosed me with munchausen syndrome. I was flabbergasted! I spoke with my PCP who said he felt it was an error and asked me to see her for one visit. I did, and when I did, I mentioned to her that I knew that "someone" had made this assessment without ever even seeing me. [i had never even met this person before]. She told me that [and I quote], "a munchausen diagnosis cannot be made without seeing a patient and thoroughly evaluating him or her a minimum of 10-15 times". This being the case, I asked how this diagnosis could've possibly been made on me when I had never in my life seen the doctor who made the diagnosis and she said it couldn't. It was impossible. Well, the damage was already done. Since it was written in my permanent medical file, my reputation was mauled. From that point on, everyone who read my chart believed that I was faking my illness to get attention and everything that I treated for from that point forward, I was treated like I was faking everything! [For what it's worth, we did discover about 4 months later that I had a very severe cholecystitis with both acute and chronic inflammation, and I ended up spending 7 days in the hospital with a bad infection after it was removed. Afterwards, I was fine.] I have since moved out of that area and I refuse to give any of my doctors here access to that medical file because of that munchausen diagnosis that was written in it. My own PCP didn't treat me the same after she wrote that in there. It's a diagnosis that you have to be 100% sure about or you could really end up hurting someone.

Sadala, ADN, RN

356 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg.

p.s.s. I think #8 is an especially important indicator. In real life, your friends/relatives/SO have very little interest in your involvement in online forums. They are not going to come post for you - and certainly not repeatedly.

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

firstly, thank you tnbutterfly, for this informative and timely article.

much needed, much appreciated.

secondly, i must say that i always feel pity for these storytellers.

i've never felt angry i find it heartbreaking that someone is that desperate for attention.

to invest such effort and time into fabricating a story that undoubtedly evokes a sympathetic response from many...

seriously, isn't that just pathetic and tragic??

it's hard for me to feel betrayed when the bottom line for me is, my heart (and subsequent response) was in the right place.

and that's all that counts, imo.

whatever the other did, is on them.

their problem, more than they even realize.

i wish they would all get the help they so desperately need.

it really is incredibly sad...

and pray this particular person doesn't remain *terminal* in their quest for validation.


I agree, Leslie. Before I knew of the poster's situation, I had given the poster my name. Then, it got weird. I knew something wasn't right. The timeline didn't add up. The severity of the proclaimed illness would have caused more deficits than was shown.

SNB1014, RN

306 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care.

I visit/read/post daily and am a bit lost. What is going on to start such a thread?

allnurses Guide

BCgradnurse, MSN, RN, NP

1,678 Posts

Specializes in allergy and asthma, urgent care.

Great article!!! It is sad that some people have to go to such lengths for attention. I have always been one to give others the benefit of the doubt, but I'm going to be much more careful since the recent incident here.

Specializes in PDN; Burn; Phone triage.

So...what happened? Any friendly person want to explain to those of us who are totally confused?


266 Posts

So...what happened? Any friendly person want to explain to those of us who are totally confused?

I 2nd this! I had no idea this happened on here...I'm so oblivious! When was all this happening? Where was I?

Liddle Noodnik

1 Article; 3,789 Posts

Specializes in Alzheimer's, Geriatrics, Chem. Dep..

But I do many of these things and I'm REAL! Honest!

(((TN))) thank you for posting. I know I have been taken in before and how funny when you find them on another site!

But not really funny, this is sad for everyone involved.

Specializes in MedSurg.

This is crazy. I was a member of an online community as a teen that was very close-knit and I guess I just believed everyone. I never gave my last name, home town or phone number out or anything, but we all knew each other very well. I would be terribly hurt if I learned that any of my online friends were fake!

I guess I am also naive because I have no clue how one would even verify these types of things. Location, age and gender perhaps, but medical history?

Gosh I am curious about the entire story! Bad me!


861 Posts

Specializes in Med Surg.

I'm wondering about the story, too.

I belong to an active knitting/crocheting site and this has happened a couple of times that have been discussed on there. One was a magazine owner who faked an illness and eventually her own death. Very, very strange. I really feel for people who need to express themselves this way. I hope they can get the help they need.

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