Should Münchausen By Internet be considered a mental illness?


If you've heard of Münchausen syndrome where someone goes to great length to fake an illness to get attention, you'll understand Münchausen By Internet, essentially feigned sickness in cyberspace. Today, we hear from the doctor documenting the cases and a woman who's become an online sleuth exposing the hoaxes.

Should Münchausen By Internet be considered a mental illness?

The love story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o is almost incomprehensible. Te'o - in case you missed it -- announced in September that his cancer-stricken girlfriend had been killed in a car crash - on the same day his grandmother died. But last week it was revealed that the girlfriend not only didn't have cancer, she didn't exist. Te'o had contacted her only online and by phone.

T'eo and the reporters who fell for the story are still trying to unravel the elaborate deceit. But, the incident shows how easy social media such as Facebook and Twitter can perpetuate a hoax.

Our next guest is well aware of the phenomenon.Dr. Marc Feldman is an expert on Münchausen syndrome - a disorder that compels people to fake illnesses or symptoms in order to get attention. He coined the term "Münchausen by Internet" - and he sees elements of that disorder in the Manti Te'o case. His latest book is called Playing Sick. Dr. Marc Feldman was in Birmingham, Alabama.

And Taryn Harper Wright runs the blog Warrior Eli Hoax. She was in Orlando, Florida.

This segment was produced by The Current's Dawna Dingwall.

We'd love to hear what you think about this. Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Follow us on Facebook. Or e-mail us through our website. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And you can always write to us at PO Box 500, Station A, Toronto, M5W 1E6.

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