O Pity Me~Münchause by Internet

Technology, the good, bad and the indifferent.

Back in the late ninetys, I purchased my first computer. Oh, how proud I was of that Windows 98 after the first few months of learning how to operate the new fan dangled piece of equipment. I was amazed that it seemed to open up a whole new world for me, cyberspace and shortly thereafter, the blogosphere. My initial aim in attaining a computer was to use it as a tool to gain information about a rare blood disorder that a close relative of mine was diagnosed with. I was not disappointed at what I found which just happened to be a Myeloproliferative diseases (MPDs) support group where I had many of my questions anwered by doctors and people suffering from the same malady. I still belong to that support group today.

About a year later, I was asked to host a forum for the mentally and physically challenged and took on that role for a period of three years. The name of the forum was The Cracker Barrel, owned by an ISProvider here in Canada. The goal of the forum was for people to freely discuss their conditions, but to do it in a fun way. My role, as moderator, was to try and get the participants to focus on the positives so we could eliminate the negative issues they were dealing with. Just like the song, “Forget your troubles, come on get happy, it will chase all your cares away.” Believe me, sometimes it was a combination of tears and laughter, but along with those, a whole lot of understanding was readily available. I feel confident in saying that this kind of therapy worked in about 90% of the cases. Sadly, the forum was closed down due to the cost of bandwidth. The Cracker Barrel was just a small part of a very large community of forums.

Now this leads me into the Casey Anthony case which took over our lives for the most part of three years and what an eye opener it was. It brought out raw emotions in us that we did not know existed. Also emerging were cyber bullies ( and I had my fill of them) scam artists and a host of other which are too many to mention.

Technology was advancing at a fast pace and so Cyberspace was expanding rapidly, almost too much so. The internet was becoming an outlet for people to relay and learn information, vent their frustrations or the like. Blogs, forums and support groups were emerging by thousands into millions. Some people use the internet for their own personal gain. Sadly to say, not all of it is good.

I want to introduce you to ‘Mandy’. The best way I can do this is to provide you with a link to an article. A friend mailed me this article and I felt compelled to share it with you. I was shocked when I read it the first time. I had to read the entire article another couple of times to let it sink in. It was that hard to believe that some people would go to these lengths to gain attention. I hope you will read it too and let me know what you think. Maybe you have met a Mandy in cyberspace. How would you handle such a person if you found out that they were not being truthful? It is a damned if you do by confronting them and possibly causing irreparable damage to their psyche or do you just play along with their game? BTW, this game can really be an illness.

Here is the article….

Faking Illness-Online

Footnote- There are sincere people out in cyberspace with real medical issues and share their stories online in order to gain support or help others. This post is not intended to discredit these people in any way-Mainstreamfair

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36 Responses to O Pity Me~Münchause by Internet

  1. Vicky says:

    Wow Snoopy. That is really incredible. It sounds like these people find forums dedicated to different illnesses and take advantage of the people posting on them. Thank goodness your blog has never attracted someone like “Mandy”. Especially given that you have a thread set up for discussing illnesses.
    I’m not sure how I would handle a situation like that. I suppose the best course of action would be to determine whether or not the individual was bringing emotional harm to someone else on the blog. If not, I would try to figure out the motivation behind the deception. So, I guess my point is, how can anyone know if a reported illness is real or not? We really don’t, so we have to rely on trust.

  2. margaret says:

    Snoops my friend,I am speechless over this article… I have to think about it for a while.. It feels right to associate caca with this story, as it was just an on going tale of lies. How dare people use other people in this way. I usually say ” at my age nothing surprises me anymore ” but this bothers me. …..You should feel very proud of your role in your group, I am sure you helped brighten their days. Thank you.

  3. Newbie says:

    WOW !!!!!. What a great article (Faking Illness Online). My immediate question to myself is how would I react if I found myself in the situation of having listened, cared, cried for and prayed for a person who had “O Pity Me=Munchause by Internet”. I would like to believe that I would be able to overcome my own disappointment and anger to realize how sick that person is to be needing that amount of attention. The next question for me is if that person admitted to the problem, could I ever trust that it was not some teenager or persons sitting behind the computer
    laughing at me for trying to understand the disease when it is all just their spoof and entertainment.

  4. Vicky says:

    In this day and age, it would be extremely difficult to get away with feigning the death of someone. I can see pulling off an illness, but death records are not that hard to obtain. Especially now that ancestry.com is around.
    I really feel for people like Mandy. To have such a strong need to feel that someone cares or to find someone to talk to is really very sad. It is obvious to me that someone like that is probably estranged from their family, and has few friends with whom to communicate. Who knows, perhaps these individuals have experienced a significant trauma in life that has left them ill prepared to navigate in the real world. I see someone like Mandy as an individual with very low self esteem and extremely poor coping skills.
    I think if I found out someone was inventing an illness, whether in real life or on the Internet, I would do my best to convince them to seek help from a mental health professional.

  5. Vicky~~ In the case of Mandy, I would have given anything to find out why she started out faking this illness. Had I been in Dawn’s place, I think that I would have continued to befriend Mandy (after I beat my fists against something) long enough to ask a ton of questions in hopes I would get some answers. Now Mandy may have come up with more outrageous tales of woe but I would be more prepared to decipher them and not fall for all the BS.

    There are so many unknowns. Was this attention getting like a comforting drug or was it a game to see how far she could take it? Was it role playing in cyberspace? Mandy took it to the extremes so apparently was not satified with a soft drug but instead took it to a heroine level. Mandy may have stayed at one level and no one would have been the wiser and she could still be gaining attention from an audience.

    Whatever Mandy’s reasons behind all this faking was, she is one mentally sick individual regardless of whether it was for attention or a malicious game. My sympathies go out to Mandy but moreso to Dawn. A Canadian too. hmmmm

  6. Margaret~~in our ‘old age’, when we think that we have heard it all, along comes something more outrageous. I must have a great shock system as some things just roll off now like water on a ducks back.

    I may join a self-help group in trying to find out how to deceive another. I have been trying to convince a certain male blogger that I am fifty, gorgeous, intelligent and rich for the past going on three years. It is not working!! What the heck am I doing wrong? Maybe I should start out with the sniffles and work it up to pneumonia. What do you think?

    As per the forum I moderated… by helping others, we are really helping ourselves. *wink

  7. Vicky says:

    Snoopy-It’s hard to say what could have motivated Mandy to take things so far. If Munchausen by Internet is anything like the other factitious disorders, my guess is that she was an extreme case. At least by using the Internet, people with the disorder are less likely to do physicalmharm to self or others. Not that the emotional abuse is harmless. But, people on the Internet can “walk away”. Who know, maybe mandy’s real life family walked away as well. In any event, she probably saved herself a lot of money in Emergency Room visit co pays. 🙂

  8. Newbie~~these ‘Mandy’ people have us over a barrel. How can you ignore someone who says they have leukemia or some other serious illness? Most of us are compassionate human beings and that is how we are lured into these fake stories. We readily take their bait and then they get us hook, line and sinker but take their time in reeling us in.

    I honestly feel bad for this 42 year old Canadian woman, Dawn. She felt obligated to console Mandy through these horrendous times. She should have been enjoying quality time with her husband and family without all this added stress she was burdened with. This is where I fault Mandy to the utmost. This same Mandy was commenting and participating on Facebook so it wasn’t like she was mentally unbalanced all of the time. I wonder if Mandy gave it up after she was exposed or is on another support group somewhere in cyberspace getting her fix. I would love to have some follow-up answers on this character.

  9. Sherry says:

    Wow, I’ve never heard of such a thing before but I can see it happening. I have heard of those who are fakes and brag on themselves-like a certain forum I used to be on that was taken in by a woman claiming to be in her 90’s and helping the abused (can’t remember if it was women or children). Oh, how everyone fawned all over her! She could do no wrong. The forum owner caught her and exposed her big time. She had been watched for a length of time.

    What would I do if caught up with such an online persona? I’d hope I hadn’t been taken in as bad as Dawn-what a sweet heart she has! I think I’d try not to let it harden me toward others. At least, I hope I’d never be bitter from an experience like that.

  10. Sherry~ ~ we had the woman from Madison trying to educate us. I had a nice young lady comment at the Snoopysleuth blog. There was a nice looking young woman as her gravatar. She had a blog of her own and said she wanted to learn from me as she had just started out. She was very pleasant and used to comment on Dave’s WP blog.. She used to copy and paste a lot of info from her own blog to ours. I can’t recall the name but the number ’52’ seems to come to mind. She ended up being a middle aged man. I had no idea that she was not the real thing.

  11. Sherry says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot about that one “woman”-52. The other one turned out to be some idiot guy with deep seated issues towards Nancy Grace. He still strikes now and then and is currently being investigated for cyberstalking, last I heard.

  12. Sherry~~with the high cost of medical care in the US, it is cheaper to have a sex change in cyberspace. Heck, they can have it both ways.

  13. Sherry says:

    Okay. I am now 25 years old virtually and forever! LOL! :mrgreen:

  14. Vicky says:

    Yeah, and I’m a virgin! LOL

  15. But not a blessed virgin like me

  16. ‘Virtual’ Factitious Disorders
    and Munchausen by Proxy

    But as the tales became more elaborate and grotesque, Grabb grew suspicious. Along with another group member—Pam Cohen, a bereavement counselor in the Mid-Atlantic region—she did some research and discovered Anna was making it up. It was a shock to all, but worse than that to Cohen. “It is like an emotional rape,” she says. People may have been upset over the online life and fatal cancer of the fictional Kaycee, whose creator admitted last month she’d invented the high school character for expressive purposes. But that was geared to a general audience, however easily suckered. Pretenders like Anna hurt a much more vulnerable group—folks who may be seriously ill and are seeking help.

    Read the entire article here….


    Cybersickness

  17. Karen C. says:

    People shouldn’t beat themselves up too much being taken in by someone on-line. Happened to me in real life about 8 months or so now. Well-put-together lady in her late 30s, had a kid in the hospital, needed a meal but had locked herself out of her Acura (she took me to the car- can’t remember now how it was exactly she couldn’t get in), drove up from Atlanta, and she was right outside the Publix right by the hospital. She even showed me a pic of her daughter all hooked up with the tubes! Everything was in the car except for the phone, she just needed to borrow a quick twenty, and her mother was coming up from Atlanta the next day- she showed me her phone records, and sure enough, Atlanta numbers, but her Mama couldn’t drive in the dark, and so on and so forth. So, YEAH, I lent her a twenty. She did give me her actual cell phone number, after all (I tested- it rang in front of me).

    Of course, she turned right around the moment I was gone and got her crack on! Picked up her phone once the next day and barely was able to mumble…”Oh, YOU”, before she hung up. Hubby laughed and laughed and laughed….. with all the experience I’ve had, and I didn’t know better.

  18. Nurse Rachett says:

    I was told by a friend that Snoopy was asking about me today. I had planned on sharing my own personal illness with all of you, but I now know that my “finger fatigue” is but a minor medical issue compared to the cyber diseases visited upon others. I do however believe that mine, although yet to be recognized by the medical profession, is most certainly worthy of a few condolences. There are times when my digits are so completely drained of energy, that I can’t even manage to type a full sentence without taking a break. I have even had to cut back on several personal activites as a result of my ailment. For example, my fingers are often too fatigued to hold onto my hand mirror. My friend Snoopy knows how important that is, so clearly “finger fatigue” is something that should be taken quite seriously. One must have full and energetic use of their fingers or far more serious ailments can occur.

  19. Sherry says:

    I am praying for your finger fatigue, Nurse Ratchet! lol! 😉

  20. Karen C. says:

    Hi, Sherry! Seriously, it helps to laugh, when possible anyway.

  21. Sherry says:

    Hi, Karen C.! :mrgreen:
    I learned when I was a wee one that I have two choices when I have been duped-laugh or cry. I choose to laugh. I consider it a victory for the devil to cry about it. Besides, God sees our hearts and that is what counts! 😉

  22. Sherry says:

    Oh gee. I just got reminded of the Balloon Boy incident. I didn’t laugh then and I’ve yet to laugh about it. Of course, I haven’t cried either. That makes a third choice-be rightfully angry about being duped. 😉

  23. Nurse Rachett says:

    Why thank you Ms. Sherry! We sinners can use all the prayers we can get. 🙂

    I am ashamed to say that I broke out in tears last week when my fingers lacked the endurance necessary to flip off a dude who cut me off in traffic on my way to work. I have a good heart, but at times I can come across as a bit unrefined. I hope I won’t overly offend any of Snoop-Jon’s readers should my fingers find the energy to continue commenting on this most serious topic.

    For now, my fingers need to rest. NR

  24. Rachett~~By any chance, would you be Cheney Mason in disguise? How’s the weather in Florida? Are dentists cheap? Make an appointment with your dentist, asap. Why you ask? Any more hokus pokus from you and you will be fitted for dentures when I finish with you.

    psst…”want a finger… here’s my middle one”…says Snoopy as she makes a hasty retreat…

  25. Karen C. says:

    ‘Night All! School tomorrow- I have to pry my son away from a game, … First rate post here, Snoopy.

  26. Nurse Rachett says:

    Snoop-Jon, I would give you a few tips on a more productive use of your finger, but alas…

  27. Karen C~~thank you, kindly. Since some of us practically live in cyberspace, it is good to become educated about who is out there and to, not be paranoid of everyone, but to be cautious and tread lightly when something just seems too extreme.

    With regards to your lady, the locked car and the twenty, she would not have gotten a penny from me. We have 911 and men in uniform to help people locked out of their vehicles. I would have asked her if she owned the car and then told her I would call my buddy at the PDept and have him run a CP check on the license plate just to make sure she was trying to get in to the right car. Me bad.

  28. cali patti says:

    Oh my, what a hoot. I think these scams have been around forever. The level has been raised with the internet because of the distance between the scammers and their audience. I understand the loneliness but not the lies. I hate lying because I have fallen prey to them in my life. Liars have changed how I see life now. Maybe I was too open and trusting before but I liked how I saw people and life. Now I am closed and it takes a time for me to sincerely care for any new person entering my life. I know I have a better balance to myself as I am now but its been diificult. Liars and scammers do so much damage to the people that have reached out to them.
    Wow, a room full of virgins, blessed virgins and 25 yr olds…Why be a virgin, I had more fun not being a virgin!

  29. Rob says:

    Snoopy, Wow, such a sad story. Mandy is very disturbed, and surely needs professional help. Many of us became very interested in the story of Caylee, and wanted justice for her. True, emotions ran high when she did not get that justice from the jury. However, most of us only wanted to share our views with other like-minded people. When a person starts to seek out pity on the internet by lying about their health or who they really are, it tells me there is something missing in their life. This busy time of year, when I feel all the anxiety about how will I have the time to shop, cook, clean and entertain for my family and friends; I need to remember to be thankful for having them in my life. I pray Mandy will get the help she desperately needs, and my heart goes out to Dawn for the terrible hoax that was played on a caring and good person.

  30. margaret says:

    After my reaction to the verdict for Little Caylee, and the awful let down feelings I dealt with and still do if I allow myself, I think we can all relate to Dawn and her state of mind after this hoax. My hope for is that she doesn’t give up her compassion for other people. She sounds like the kind of person I would want in my corner if I were ill…………………..About that male Snoops, I would consider sending a certain seagull to pull out the rest of his hair. one strand at a time, until he is a believer. If all else fails, a good damsel in distress mystery might just grab his attention. My bet is on you. Thanks Snoops and God bless you……………Thanks to everyone for being a part of my day, I love reading all the posts….

  31. Margaret~~I think once Dawn got over the hurt of being used by Mandy, she would still be willing to help others. In fact, if she felt that she could help Mandy deal with her emotional issues, she would probably be willing. It is hard to just write off another human being entirely. If Mandy did this because she had no family and faking illness was her only way of getting some attention, then she needs our help. If Mandy was on a power struggle and being malicious, she still needs help.

  32. Dave Knechel says:

    Marc D. Feldman, M.D, wrote an article titled, Munchausen by Internet: Faking Illness Online. In it, he gives tips for recognizing this syndrome on the Net, some of which are:

    1. the posts consistently duplicate material in other posts, in books, or on health-related websites;
    2. the characteristics of the supposed illness emerge as caricatures;
    3. near-fatal bouts of illness alternate with miraculous recoveries;
    4. claims are fantastic, contradicted by subsequent posts, or flatly disproved;
    5. there are continual dramatic events in the person’s life, especially when other group members have become the focus of attention;
    6. there is feigned blitheness about crises (e.g., going into septic shock) that will predictably attract immediate attention;
    7. others apparently posting on behalf of the individual (e.g., family members, friends) have identical patterns of writing.

    His article focuses on message boards, but this is something that can arise on any form of collective Internet communication, especially in situations where people tend to bond.

  33. Dave~~thanks for the great info. The MPD support group I belong to must really be screened by the listowners of the group. I have never recognized anyone ever faking a rare blood disorder. I joined the group back in ’98 and in the beginning did ask many questions. It was always stated, “Please Check with Your Doctor” when it came to any over the counter meds or herbal remedies someone tried. We even had well renowned doctors from the Mayo Clinic make themselves available to answer our questions. I was interested in Essential Thrombocytosis (ET) and the Neurologist that my relative went to was familar with this MPD support group so it was on the up and up. My relative was finally in a position to join the group so I just read it once in awhile now.

    On another note, after hosting a blog for a good length of time, you get to recognize each person’s unique way of getting their message across. I don’t know how Mandy kept up with writing as 4 other people. If I tried that, all of them would come across as blunt with a tad of sarcasm thrown in.

  34. cali patti says:

    Mandy is a sad story on so many different levels. I became emotionally invested in Caylee but was not into Casey and her crew. I was fascinated by the circus that happened. It was a main event with 20 equally large side shows. I was and still am in shock at the verdict. I will never understand how that jury did not come to a different verdict. I did see Baez play the jury and saw what Snoop said about the jury wanting to go home, but still.
    My age I know has given me a tough exterior that is seldom pierced by anyones sad story. I do feel empathy for the women in here that have suffered losses of children and husbands. I don’t know how to say that to them and often go to humor.
    The Canadian woman who gave so much of herself to Mandy, I hope has not become harden by the gift of love & time she gave. I understand why some people have turned into “hermits.”

  35. cali patti says:

    I need to clear up what I said in above post. I did become emotionally involved in Casey & crew. Not Caylee which is sort of backwards. I have been honest in here and want to always be honest in here.

    all fixed~S

  36. Patti O says:

    Off topic but in response to Cali patti talking about Casey and crew. It was interesting in Jeff Ashton’s book that Cheney tried to get her to take a plea deal during the trial and Casey just looked at him and didn’t even respond to what he was suggesting. She just totally tuned Cheney out when he tried to talk her into it. Such bizarre behavior. I could understand her saying ‘Hell no’ or reacting but to just look right through him as if he wasn’t even there? Maybe Casey is really an alien. The Globe ought to run with that story.
    As for the MbI there is always a scammer. The internet just gives people a new playground. I think everyone should always keep their radar up and if something just doesn’t sound right…Personally I would have been suspicious early on. No one has that much bad luck.

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