Why and How People Fake Driving Anxiety Online

Highway tunnel lightsYou may get loads of support, comfort and feedback from online forums and communities dealing with driving anxiety, but you also have a chance of getting loads of, well, BS.

That load of lies may come from someone who is not actually suffering from driving phobias, driving fears and driving anxiety but may pretend to, creating a façade he or she presents to the online community. The practice is not specific to driving phobias, but to any medical condition that Internet users can pretend to have as they post comments, conversations, blog entries or anything else online.

Welcome to Munchausen by Internet

“Munchausen by Internet occurs when medically well individuals fake recognized illnesses in virtual environments, such as online support groups,” according to a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Yes, the phenomenon has concerned researchers enough for them to create a name for the thing, and even enough for two of them to give it their full attention in a full-fledged report on the topic. The report was the first of its kind on the subject, which makes a big breakthrough for recognizing, dealing with and perhaps helping the people who engage in it.

Why People Do It

The main aim of those with Munchausen syndrome is to gain some type of sympathy, sense of belonging or attention. They are not necessarily out for money, which is often the case with those who engage in practice of malingering, Mindhack points out.

Cleveland Clinic adds that Munchausen syndrome is a specific type of factitious disorder where the symptoms suffered by the individual are physical, rather than mental. That means to officially be engaging in Munchausen by Internet for driving anxiety, for example, the person would have to complain of anxiety’s physical side effects. These may include the tell-tale rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, rapid breathing and all the other fun stuff associated with extreme stress or a panic attack.

How Can You Tell if Someone is Faking?

Signs that may indicate a person is faking an illness can include a variety of red flags, with Cleveland Clinic and the Journal of Medical Internet Research paper pointing out a bunch of them. They can include:

  • A medical history that is inconsistent, always changing, and always packed with the latest, greatest dramatic symptoms
  • Solid textbook definitions of conditions and illnesses
  • Symptoms that change as treatment begins
  • Extreme eagerness to try new treatments, procedures or medical tests
  • A consistent relapse once the person appears to be getting better
  • Keeping family members and doctors away from each other so they cannot compare notes or discuss the person’s issues or condition

Warning signs that may specifically crop up online include:

  • Posts that are often cut and pasted from medical or health websites
  • Extreme exaggerations of symptoms
  • A sudden, miraculous recovery after being on the brink of death
  • Posts that go against each other or are contradictory
  • Posts supposedly written by other people supporting an individual’s claim that have suspiciously similar writing styles and patterns as the person in question
  • Bigger drama and horrific bouts with the condition when other online group members are getting more attention than the individual

This does not mean people suffering from driving fear, anxiety,  phobias or other mental or physical anguish are not for real if they’re online, it just means the Internet opens up one more avenue for those suffering from of factitious disorder or Munchausen syndrome.


Photo Credit: Viernest