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Munchausen by Internet

Munchausen by Internet is a type of factitious disorder which utilizes the Internet's easy access to a broad audience. The term was coined by Marc D Feldman, M.D.[1], in 2000. It specifically relates to Munchausen Syndrome - where a sufferer fakes or induces illness to gain attention and sympathy - and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP), where the sufferer creates fake illnesses in others, or physically harms others. Sufferers of MSBP are often parents who inflict fake illnesses on their child, or children.

Munchausen by Internet provides a twist on MSBP in that the sufferer not only invents the illness but sometimes also invents the people involved.[2] Munchausen By Internet has also been described as virtual factitious disorder[3] and cyberMunch.


Notable cases of Munchausen by Internet

Two well known cases in the USA and the UK highlight the different behaviours of Munchausen by Internet. Kaycee Nicole was supposedly a 19-year-old Kansas girl, sharing her ongoing battle against cancer with members of an internet forum. Only after she died, to the heartbreak of thousands, was she exposed as 40-year-old Debbie Swenson. For two years, the young American girl who called herself "Kaycee Nicole" recounted her brave struggle against leukaemia in a daily online diary until she died. Thousands of web-users sent condolences.[4] But the 19-year-old from Kansas was discovered to be the invention of 40-year-old Debbie Swenson. As reported in Wired[5], bereavement counselor Pam Cohen was spurred by the Swenson hoax to investigate Munchausen's by Internet and expose it to a wider audience.

In another case, a woman who called herself "Anna" claimed her husband had been killed in a plane crash to garner sympathy. Her claims, made between 1998 and 2000, were to a private email group rather than the Internet at large.[6]

Detection and identification

The most successful way to detect a fake is by cross-referencing statements for inconsistencies, and checking the validity of their medical claims.
Wild claims: .
Inconsistencies: Kaycee Nicole was exposed after suspicious members cross-checked claims on the websites of Kaycee and Debbie Swenson (Kaycee's creator). Inconsistent "facts" then encouraged investigators to make their claims public[7].


  1. ^ Marc D Feldman, M.D. describes Munchausen by Internet
  2. ^ New York Times: Faking Pain and Suffering In Internet Support Groups
  3. ^ Feldman, Bibby, & Crites, 1998
  4. ^ A full collection of Kaycee Nicole posts and other related links is collected in a single article.
  5. ^ Wired: They Think They Feel Your Pain
  6. ^ Village Voice: Cybersickness
  7. ^ Becky Says: Recalling the discovery of the Kaycee fraud

External hyperlinks

AsherMeadow - providing support for Munchausen sufferers
Mothers Against Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Allegations
The Kaycee Nicole story in full

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Munchausen_by_Internet". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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