Body Integrity Identity Disorder caused woman to blind herself on purpose

Oct 1, 2015 at 5:20 p.m. ET

A North Carolina woman went blind as an adult, but it wasn't because of a degenerative disorder.

The 30-year-old revealed that she went blind on purpose by pouring corrosive drain cleaner directly on her eyes, something she felt she needed to do because of a mental illness known as Body integrity identity disorder.

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Jewel Shuping's obsession with blindness started at a young age when she started "blind-simming," or pretending to be blind, by walking around in dark hallways, learning braille and wearing thick glasses.

"My mother would find me walking in the halls at night, when I was three or four years old," she told Barcroft Media, adding that she'd stare at the sun in an attempt to ruin her eyesight. "By the time I was six I remember that thinking about being blind made me feel comfortable."

The obsession intensified as Shuping aged and in 2006 took steps to make her blindness dream a reality. First, she went to Canada and bought special eye-numbing drops. Then she enlisted the help of a psychologist willing to pour drain cleaner in her eyes. "My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin," she said of the process. "But all I could think was 'I am going blind, it is going to be okay."

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The drain cleaner didn't immediately blind her. "When I woke up the following day [in the hospital] I was joyful, until I turned on to my back and opened my eyes — I was so enraged when I saw the TV screen," she said. But over the next six months her left eye experienced a "corneal meltdown" and eventually had to be removed. The right eye remained, though scarring, glaucoma and cataracts left her without the ability to see, just as she hoped.

The identity of the psychologist who assisted Shuping is not known, nor is it known if the professional was punished for participating. However, the psychiatrist who coined the term BIID told the Daily Mail that it's a real mental disorder with few treatments. "Any major disability can be a focus of BIID, from amputation to paraplegia and blindness," said Dr. Michael First, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.

"These people are aware that this feeling of theirs is unusual — they know it is coming from within them. They can't explain it," he said. "Now the problem of course if you have a particular individual who wanted amputation or who wants to be blind — how do you know once you have done it that they are going to be satisfied?"

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But Shuping does seem to be happy with her decision, even if it did ruin her relationship with her immediate family. She's also cognizant that people may look at what she did with a negative eye.

"I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth," she said. "When there's nobody around you who feels the same way, you start to think that you're crazy. But I don't think I'm crazy, I just have a disorder."