Dec 25

For several years now, I have observed a significant rise in clients – especially male ones – who suffer from massive fears of having pedophilic tendencies. Even though these fears are often unfounded, they may cause intense symptoms like massive emotional pressure and suffering or even self-inflicted injuries. In diagnostic terms, however, what by far most of these persons were dealing with are in fact obsessive thoughts.

I have finally found some time to translate the respective article of mine, first published in 2008 in German language, to English. It is now online at .

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Aug 05

Beauty surgeons and the cosmetic industry love it (critics claim that they are even doing their best to support? it): the ‘Dorian Gray Syndrome‘ describes a phenomenon where people turn into heavy users of cosmetic products and medical procedures in an attempt to preserve their youth. Oscar Wilde’s famous novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ first introduced the psychological dilemma of affected persons to the wide public: conseqently the syndrome was named after the novel’s protagonist.

While this syndrome as a whole is not scientifically acknowledged, many patients suffering from it actually show diagnosable traits of body dysmorphic disorder (having excessive concerns about perceived defects in their physical features), narcissistic character elements (like a sense of superiority or being more occupied with themselves than with others), and signs of delayed maturation in certain aspects of their psychic development. In their preoccupation with their outer appearance and difficulty to accept their aging process, DGS patients are often users or abusers of hair growth and weight-loss products, mood enhancers, medication against erectile dysfunction, they are often owners of gym membership cards and very often patients for cosmetic surgery (laser resurfacing, botox injections, aesthetic surgery etc.).

In case you happen to know someone who you think might show signs of the Dorian Gray Syndrome: this person might also have depressive tendencies which, if untreated, might trigger autodestructive symptoms if he or she tries to suppress the negative self image by using drugs or repeatedly undergoing surgeries. But who would want to define when it would be ‘justified’ to look out for help? Some might not want to live a life burdened by compulsionary thoughts of this kind, but be able to fully enjoy their lives and take life as it is – like so many others do.

But then, what can be done about it? For some of the affected persons, a personality disorder turns out as the root cause for their body dysmorphic disorder, for others it is a lack of self-esteem. While in order to improve one’s psychological balance, a personality disorder can only be managed by various means (like by medication and counseling aiming at better self management), self-esteem can be improved quite well utilizing methods of psychotherapy. This doesn’t have to be a process that requires years of ‘talking cure’ – distinctive and long-lasting improvements can usually be achieved already after a few months of regular sessions. The goal of these sessions is to work out a more confident and accepting take on what our body involves.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011)

Oct 28

The term ‘messie syndrome’ first appeared in the media when an American woman published how she had turned into a ‘messie’ during the 1980s and how difficult it was for her to change her behavior and get control over her life again.

Messies accumulate objects that have become worthless and useless in their apartments. Slowly, these places will become less and less habitable, in extreme cases they can just be crossed by narrow corridores between stacks of filled plastic bags, storage boxes or heaps of old magazines or books; they might even become a hygienic issue due to insect infestation or bad odor. Still, a messie can not just throw these things out, as he or she feels that they have important emotional value or that one day, they might need them again or that some of them belong to a certain collection they want to keep.

The deeper psychological problem of ‘messies’ is that they have serious difficulties to maintain or achieve order and to organize themselves. While they are often aware of the problem and develop plans on how to get rid of their ‘mess’, they fail at putting these plans into action, which leaves them even more frustrated. This also has an impact on their self-esteem and quite often results in refraining from social contacts, at times resulting in chronic isolation.

It is not a solution to force affected persons to organize themselves and get rid of what we see as ‘rubbish’, they would see that as violent, rude, and a serious intrusion into their privacy. Messies are often very intelligent and sensitive people, they easily perceive if someone doesn’t take them seriously. They just lack the automatism that old stuff has to be chucked away.

Today, a well-proven approach to help messies to slowly solve their problem, is a combination of psychotherapy and if possible, to find peer exchange in self-help groups. In severe cases, social workers might have to be involved. The affected persons will learn how to develop and apply strategies that will eventually work out better than what they themselves have tried so far. It might be something that takes some time, but at the end, the former ‘messies’ will gain personal freedom and remarkably improve their self esteem.

(This short article is part of a weekly series dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues and was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2010)