Drs: Body Integrity Identity Disorder + Purposefully Blinded Herself

The Doctors: What Is Body Integrity Identity Disorder?

Body identity integrity disorder is new and rare, and is often referred to as BIID. It’s where healthy, able-bodied individuals believe they are supposed to be disabled. The Doctors introduced a woman who’s desire to lose her sight was so strong, “she did the unthinkable.”

Her name is Jewel and she claims to have BIID. She was born with good vision but when she was 6-years-old she started feeling compelled to want to be blind. In 2008, she found an online group about pretending to be blind. She met a psychologist and told him she wanted to go blind permanently. The psychologist told her to do the research to show she was serious and then said he would help her.

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The Doctors: Woman Purposefully Blinds Herself

Drs: Body Integrity Identity Disorder + Purposefully Blinded Herself

The Doctors teamed up with Dr Phil to better understand why a woman purposefully blinded herself and gte her the help she needs. (ohnonolan / Flickr)

Jewel began researching different ways to go blind and decided on drain cleaner because it was easy to get. She laid down on the sofa and the psychologist put two drops of drain cleaner in each of her eyes. The drain cleaner began “eating through her eyes” and Jewel described it as a “violent pain.” But through the pain, all she could think about was that it was actually going to work.

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Her cornea collapsed on her left so her left eye was replaced with a prosthetic. Now, she can only see lights and shadows out of her right eye. Her immediate family has basically disowned her but she’s happy and has no regrets. She said she’s not crazy, she just has a disorder that is misunderstood.

The Doctors: Eye Damage From Drain Cleaner

The Doctors sent Jewel to see ophthalmologist Dr Kerry Assil to see just how bad the damage to her eyes was. Dr Assil said she’s done serious damage to her eyes and she was also suffering from conjunctivitis. Dr Assil recommended that she get her prosthesis replaced. Dr Assil then shared with The Doctors that he’s seen people who are irreversibly blind and were devastated by it, so to see someone who willfully blinded themselves is always a bit hard to swallow.

Jewel said her regret is that her family hates her, but that’s her only regret.

The Doctors: Damage From Chemicals In Eyes

Dr Assil explained that the eye that wasn’t replaced is completely scarred over, but it’s obvious that doctors didn’t realize how her eye became damaged and went to tremendous lengths to try to save her eye. Dr Assil explained that within seconds, lye, a chemical found in drain cleaner, can eat through collagen, fat, and tissues.

Dr Assil said the empathetic side of him wants to fix Jewel, but she thinks that problem has already been fixed. He said it’s entirely different than people who come in after accidents, desperate to save their vision. He said in his interview with Jewel, he wasn’t convinced she was entirely at peace with her decision and her actions.

The Doctors: Woman Purposefully Harmed Herself

The Doctors were then joined by both Jewel and Dr Phil McGraw, and Jewel began by saying she has no regrets about taking her own vision because she believes she should’ve been born blind but she’s happy the way she is. However, she does have regrets about the way she did it, “but in the end, I’m happy the way I am.”

Dr Jennifer Ashton, appearing angry, turned to Dr Phil and said “with all due respect to Jewel, but I am having a really hard time, really hard time, sitting so close to someone who traumatized herself, who damaged herself. We took an oath in medicine to help people. We see horrible tragedies every single day as doctors and people who would give anything to go back and restore their vision and their health. My heart is beating out of my chest. I can’t even make sense of the emotions I’m feeling.”

The Doctors: Body Integrity Identity Disorder

Dr Phil explained that you have to go through a different psychological process to rule out psychosis. People who get the diagnosis of BIID are well adjusted in every aspect of their life, but they just can’t get past that one thing. What’s requried before someone actually goes to lengths to change something, like remove their sight, they have to go through extensive counseling and live as a they seek to be for a couple of years, to see if it’s truly what they want. Only then, are they considered a candidate for anything.

Dr Ashton said she understands and is respectful of the psychopathology, but how do you go from the feeling to the actual act and who is ultimately held responsible for the act of intentionally doing something like that? Dr Phil reached out to Jewel’s psychotherapist who said “I do not know who that is. I did nothing of the sort. I have no idea why she mentioned me.” Jewel is adamant that he absolutely did help her.

Dr Phil claimed that Jewel was victimized by poor judgment and didn’t go through the proper process. He said she’s both victim and perpetrator in this situation. Dr Travis Stork explained that this diagnosis is extremely rare, and he’s concerned about the power of suggestion. The fact that there are message boards out there encouraging people. He said people who are going through a rough patch could “grasp onto” the diagnosis, harm themselves, and then later regret it. Dr Phil said no one should copycat because it’s an irreversible act. This is something that first shows up in early childhood.

The Doctors: BIID Debate

Dr Travis said all doctors take an oath agreeing to do no harm. He said he can’t imagine a single doctor who would willingly blind a person. Dr Ashton said either Jewel needs to take responsibility for choosing to blind herself, or she’s going to decide to blame it on the disorder and say she wasn’t treated properly by the psychiatric and medical community. She can’t do both.

Dr Phil explained that Jewel was never diagnosed with BIID, she self-diagnosed herself, allegedly found a guy in a chat room, and blinded herself using the guy she found online. He said Jewel is someone who was confused and got “allegedly mutilated.”

If you’re struggling, seek real professional help before you do something you may regret.

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