In a The Doctors and Dr. Phil exclusive: Jewel, 30, says since she was 6 years old, she has felt she was meant to be born blind. She says her desire to become disabled led her to put drain cleaner in her eyes, thus permanently destroying her vision. “I’m very happy as a blind person,” she says.
Jewel’s story is typical of people with the rare condition known as body integrity identity disorder. BIID is a disorder in which otherwise healthy individuals feel that they are meant to be disabled. Some of these individuals harm themselves to attain their desired state, while others ask surgeons or other medical professionals to assist them in disabling themselves. The condition currently is not medically recognized in the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, and many medical professionals, including surgeons and psychiatrists, are unfamiliar with the disorder.
“People [with BIID] from a very early time in life … have a strong sense that something about their body just doesn’t belong,” special guest Dr. Phil McGraw explains. Some patients may feel that a particular limb is foreign or doesn’t belong on their body.
Supporters of BIID sufferers compare the condition to gender dysphoria – in which a person strongly identifies with the opposite gender and feels discomfort with his or her own assigned sex, often resulting in the individual seeking gender reassignment surgery.
- Related: Parenting a gender-creative child
Watch as Dr. Phil further explains BIID:
BIID is a controversial diagnosis within the medical community. Many medical professionals feel torn between their desire to help a patient who is suffering and being unwilling to contradict the fundamental Hippocratic oath of medicine: do no harm.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, surgery resulting in the desired disability can result in the permanent remission of BIID and an improvement in the patient’s quality of life.
"It's your body," Jewel says. "You should be able to do what you want to do with it."
OB-GYN Jennifer Ashton and ER physician Travis Stork weigh in on the ethical dilemma physicians face when dealing with a patient suffering from BIID:
The Doctors and Dr. Phil emphasize that BIID is incredibly rare and anyone who is feeling confused should seek help from a reputable medical professional.
"My fear is that people who are going through a tough spot in life are going to grasp onto this diagnosis and harm themselves and later regret it," Dr. Travis explains.
Learn more about Jewel and body integrity identity disorder at DrPhil.com.