Everyone cares about their appearance to a certain extent. Animals groom themselves while people wear makeup, get piercings, and tattoo themselves to enhance their appearance. Shows like The Swan, Nip/Tuck and Extreme Makeover convey how the use of cosmetic surgery has escalated in this country. Despite the agreement that everyone wants to look good, there is a growing concern that this drive for a certain physical appearance can stem from mental illness rather than social persuasion.
Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental illness in which one is obsessed with what they think is a flaw in their appearance, a flaw that is either insignificant or imagined. With BDD people seek out cosmetic surgery to change their appearance, however, some are never satisfied. About one third of those who desire rhinoplasty (a "nose job") have been found to have BDD symptoms and scarcely 2 percent need rhinoplasty for exclusively medical reasons.
One of the more disturbing forms of BDD is Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). BIID is a condition where someone desires to have a missing limb. One man with BIID interviewed by FOXNews.com claimed that he fantasized about loosing a limb from the age of about 4 years old. Now as an older man, he has admitted to his wife and the public his curious need to "get a leg lopped off." People with BIID have indeed gotten rid of limbs and claimed they feel better and "more complete" afterwards. They say their condition is a lot like what used to be called Gender Identity Disorder (when someone is born male and they feel as if they are female, and vice versa). Surprisingly, the medical community leaves people with BIID very few options. People with BIID have been known to use prosthesis to pretend they have an amputation or will even mutilate their unwanted limbs. A popular example of this is a man who put his legs in 100 pounds of dry ice for six hours until they turned black, then went to the hospital where a surgeon had no choice but to remove the mans legs. Surgeons refuse to surgically remove limbs from people with BIID, and up until May 2011, there has been no medical treatment alternative to surgery.
The first successful long-term psychotherapy to treat BIID was done at the clinical center of the Goethe University in Frankfurt. Up until this introduction to using psychotherapy on BIID patients, there was no medication that seemed to help with the disorder and the only successful treatment for BIID known to work was removal of the limbs. During psychotherapy a 37 year-old man who wanted to amputate both his legs the origin and meaning of the desire to amputate were uncovered. The psychologists concluded that by using psychodynamic oriented therapy in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral elements, further treatment could then be developed to help with the disorder.
There is no consensus by neuroscientists as to why people have BIID, however, one possibility discussed is that something went wrong in the body-mapping regions of the cerebral cortex. One part of the cerebral cortex is the primary somatosensory cortex where sensory information of touch is relayed from the body. In front of this region is the primary motor cortex, the region involved in movement. BIID might have come from lesions or a disruption in these parts of the brain.
The drive people feel to look a certain way can develop with errors and can cause a person to reach such lengths as mutilating their own body to ease their psychological illness. Despite the fact that we should all respect other peoples desire to do what they want with their own body, the medical community should seek out and encourage alternatives that are less physically invasive.
Main article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/05/28/cutting-desire.html