Washington: The self-inflicted removal of one or both eyes, which has traditionally been attributed to sexual guilt, is, in fact, caused by untreated psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, researchers have revealed.This type of self-inflicted mutilating injury is fortunately very rare, the researchers noted, but over 50 cases have been published in medical journals over the past 50 years.The phenomenon, which is variously referred to as oedipism, self enucleation or auto-enucleation, has been linked to sexual guilt - an association that stems from both classical Greek mythology and the Bible.In Sophocles’ tragedy, Oedipus the King (Oedipus Rex), it is prophesised that the protagonist will kill his father and sleep with his mother, and he ends up stabbing himself in both eyes.This type of incestuous sexual attraction was popularised by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in the 19th century who attributed it to some of his patients, in what he described as the Oedipus complex.A more persistent belief is that self enucleation is specifically associated with Christian religious guilt, as all the published cases have come from countries that were predominantly Christian, and some patients seem to have been influenced by a passage in the Gospel of Matthew.This says: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”But the researchers, who have carried out two systematic reviews of published case reports of self enucleation and major self mutilation, conclude that self enucleation is invariably associated with psychotic illness, particularly untreated schizophrenia.
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