Science-- there's something for everyone

Saturday, April 21, 2012

People who pluck out their own eyes are psychotic

But you didn’t really need me to tell you that, did you?  Conventional wisdom in psychiatry states that self-enucleation (removing one’s own eye, also known as oedipism or auto-enucleation) is the result of either sexual or Christian guilt.  Matthew Large from the University of New South Wales and Olav Neilssen from the University of Sydney have now set the record straight.  Self-enucleation is in fact a symptom of psychosis, especially schizophrenia.

The authors reviewed the published case histories of patients who had severely damaged or removed their own eyes.  Sexual or religious guilt was a factor in only a quarter of the cases.  Delusions, such as that other people were using their eyes for nefarious purposes, played a much greater roll.  In addition, the unfortunate perpetrators of self-enucleation come from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds.  In other words, only a subset of the patients surveyed had any familiarity with either Oedipus or the Gospel of Matthew.

To be clear, this is an exceedingly rare condition.  The authors estimate that it afflicts about one out of every 30 million people each year.  If caught before permanent damage is done, sufferers can be managed with medication and close observation. 

No pictures with this post.  You’re welcome.