Thursday, May 31, 2012

Icons From the Age of Anxiety: The King of Pop Michael Jackson

Michael Joseph Jackson (1958-2009): The American recording artist, entertainer, and businessman who is often referred to as the King of Pop, or by his initials MJ, is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. If ever there was a text-book poster boy for the anxiety disorder known as Body dismorphic disorder, MJ would have to be it.

From Wikipedia: Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD, also body dysmorphia, dysmorphic syndrome; originally dysmorphophobia) is a type of mental illness, a somatoform disorder, wherein the affected person is concerned with body image, manifested as excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived defect of their physical features. The person complains of a defect in either one feature or several features of their body; or vaguely complains about their general appearance, which causes psychological distress that causes clinically significant distress or impairs occupational or social functioning. Often BDD co-occurs with emotional depression and anxiety, social withdrawal or social isolation.

Common compulsive behaviors associated with BDD include:

Compulsive mirror checking, glancing in reflective doors, windows and other reflective surfaces.
Alternatively, inability to look at one's own reflection or photographs of oneself; also, removal of mirrors from the home.
Attempting to camouflage the imagined defect: for example, using cosmetic camouflage, wearing baggy clothing, maintaining specific body posture or wearing hats.
Use of distraction techniques to divert attention away from the person's perceived defect, e.g. wearing extravagant clothing or excessive jewelry.
Excessive grooming behaviors: skin-picking, combing hair, plucking eyebrows, shaving, etc.
Compulsive skin-touching, especially to measure or feel the perceived defect.
Immotivated hostility toward people, especially those of the opposite sex (or same sex if homosexual).
Seeking reassurance from loved ones.
Excessive dieting or exercising, working on outside appearance.
Comparing appearance/body parts with that/those of others, or obsessive viewing of favorite celebrities or models whom the person suffering from BDD wishes to resemble.
Compulsive information-seeking: reading books, newspaper articles and websites that relate to the person's perceived defect, e.g. losing hair or being overweight.
Obsession with plastic surgery or dermatological procedures, often with little satisfactory results (in the perception of the patient). In extreme cases, patients have attempted to perform plastic surgery on themselves, including liposuction and various implants, with disastrous results.

Common locations of perceived defects:

In research carried out by Dr. Katharine Philips, involving over 500 patients, the percentage of patients concerned with the most common locations were as follows;

Skin (73%)
Hair (56%)
Nose (37%)
Weight (22%)

MJ appears to be another high-profile case of an afflicted person of wealth and celebrity that, instead of being treated for his anxiety disorders, was enabled and exploited. It's a tragedy, because he was a talented, good looking kid and it all went horribly wrong. Avoidance is a bitch.

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