Cienna Madrid investigates Munchausen syndrome, which compels people to go to "incredible lengths to fake illness or psychological trauma for the express purpose of attracting medical attention and sympathy from other people." It was first identified in 1977 but now flourishes online:
Think of it: You're anonymous—you can manifest any symptoms you want, like puking pints of blood, without having to actually puke pints of blood. And instead of being examined by the trained eyes of a doctor, you're welcomed unconditionally by flocks of people who stand on-call, ready to shower you with attention and emotional support 24 hours a day. For weeks or months or years, you can live out your deception without the fear of having your lies challenged in person. And if someone does eventually doubt your story, you can simply log out. Change your name or your illness. Find a fresh group of sympathizers.
This accessibility makes Munchausen by internet "way, way more common than Munchausen ever was or could have been," Dr. Feldman says. "Unfortunately, a lot of therapists have no clue what Munchausen is, let alone Munchausen by internet."