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Münchhausen online: What happens on social media

Grecia De Flores
4 min read

Social networks have expanded the possibilities of intercultural communication in a massive way. It makes it possible to meet people who share the same interests to form deep and close bonds.

This field enables a new presentation of the traditional Münchhausen syndrome, which is a categorization of a psychiatric disorder called factitious syndromes.

These consist of pretending a disease or condition to obtain from people some kind of attention, recognition or benefit through said farce.

This disorder also occurs in the modality called Münchhausen by proxy in which the disorder is reflected not in the person who suffers it but in some other vulnerable person who can be cared for.

Generally this occurs in parents, guardians or caregivers who are in contact with vulnerable people before them.

Münchhausen online: What happens on social media – Wellness and Health

What is Münchhausen on the internet?

This is a type of presentation of the classic psychiatric disorder in which people who suffer from it pretend to have a different identity than the real one who suffers from some disease.

This with the intention of obtaining compassion and attention from the people who are within the internet community. Generally these people get into forums for people who suffer from a disease or their relatives.

People with Münchhausen online create identities that reinforce the primary identity, it is not uncommon to see them interact from different accounts to give credibility to the story.

Generally the diseases are critical and the testimonies or the descriptions made by the people are super specific and in many cases exaggerated.

This disorder does not have an exact known cause, in traditional Münchhausen the behaviors and motivations are unconscious, however in Internet Münchhausen people are aware that their disease is feigned, but they are not able to recognize the origin of their motivations.

So these are unconscious, as a consequence of the above it is not easy to determine the causes of this disease and they require individual therapy as treatment.

Is it usual?

In recent times it is common to see people pretending to have critical illnesses in forums or internet profiles.

The internet is in this case a tool that enables the development of this disorder, since it is not necessary to suffer pain or annoying real consultations to validate this disorder.

They easily find companionship and empathy from people in the community without having to elaborate the charade at levels that are painful or uncomfortable for those who suffer from it.

As of 2000, the term Münchhausen was coined online due to the incidence that occurred on social networks that undermines the trust placed in support forums.

Generally, when people with this disorder are discovered or stop receiving the reaction they want, they exaggerate their stories even more or blame the lack of attention of the people on the forum for their symptoms.

They tend to disappear when confronted and eventually come back with other identities or with other testimonials in different forums seeking attention.

There is currently a demand to include this type of disorder in the DSM diagnostic manual, since it is increasingly registered today on the Internet and as a consequence in the consultation and experiences in psychological therapies.

How to face a person with this disorder?

If you think you are in front of a person who pretends his identity on the internet, to corroborate it you can take into account the following aspects:

  • Their stories are incoherent: sometimes the lies are not consonant with each other and the testimonies in which they claim to go to medical appointments or treatments do not correspond to interventions they carry out online.

  • Their way of writing is generic: because they get most of the information from the Internet, their descriptions are sometimes very technical or lacking in experiential data, since they tend to paraphrase the symptoms of the Webs.

  • Their symptoms do not correspond to the vitality with which it is perceived when writing: sometimes you do not understand in depth the characteristics of the disease that are credited, so they say they have symptoms that are inconsistent with the possibility of sharing their own experience symptoms, for example a person claiming to have a stroke when posting on the forum.

Münchhausen syndrome on the internet is a real disorder that has increased in recent times and causes great mistrust in people who actually participate in their experience in the forums.