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What's the name of this mental illness?
June 5, 2008 10:01 AM   Subscribe

A couple of months ago, I read an article about a very rare illness primarily affecting men which caused them, among other things, to hurt themselves - sometimes quite seriously. Does anyone know the name of this disorder?

Some of the self-injuries were truly frightening - including stabbing oneself in the eye. Several of the men interviewed had to be restrained at all times. There were also verbal issues - a lot of seemingly involuntary cursing, etc. I think the disorder had a hyphenated name, one of which might have been a proper name.
posted by anonymous78 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh yeah, this was in the New Yorker (Aug 13, 2007) and I loved it so much I saved it. Lesch-Nyhan syndrome.
posted by xo at 10:04 AM on June 5, 2008


Yup, that's it. I thought it was in the New Yorker but wasn't 100% sure. Thanks xo.
posted by anonymous78 at 10:10 AM on June 5, 2008


The New Yorker article,"Error in the Code", is online here [PDF].
posted by ericb at 10:15 AM on June 5, 2008


I think there must have been more than one article, because I remember a gruesome and heartbreaking story about little kids (boys, I believe) with a horrible compulsion to injure themselves - by mutilating and biting off their fingers.
posted by canine epigram at 10:17 AM on June 5, 2008


canine, you may be thinking of The Cobra Event by Richard Preston, a thriller in which Lesch-Nayan has a major role.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:37 AM on June 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


That was a great article.
posted by brevator at 10:44 AM on June 5, 2008


Wow, that was amazing.
posted by peep at 11:38 AM on June 5, 2008


Yeah, that's definitely Blue-able.
posted by disillusioned at 12:56 PM on June 5, 2008


"Ah, alcohol The New Yorker...is there anything it can't do?" -- H. J. Simpson
posted by neuron at 1:04 PM on June 5, 2008


There was something about this on the radio this week. I think the local NPR affiliate interviewed the guy that wrote that article.
I'm so sad and fascinated.
posted by Shohn at 1:22 PM on June 5, 2008


The Cobra Event by Richard Preston, a thriller in which Lesch-Nayan has a major role.

Richard Preston is also the author of the New Yorker article.
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2008


FYI -- other books and New Yorker articles by Richard Preston.
posted by ericb at 1:32 PM on June 5, 2008


Preston's new book (Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science) features more on Lesch-Nayan syndrome.
"One of the book’s strongest stories captures the everyday hell of people living with Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that creates 'self-cannibals' compelled to mutilate their own bodies and strike out at those they care about most....Preston: 'In 2000 I made contact with William Nyhan, the doctor who co-discovered the disease. He [introduced] me to two patients [James Elrod and Jim Murphy]. It took a total of seven years to figure out how to write about them in a way that didn’t make them seem like freaks. What is it really like to have a compulsion to bite off your extremities and pull your eyes out? It took a long, long time until I had my sea legs in that story. James Elrod and I still see each other whenever I’m in Santa Cruz. He only throws punches once in a while. When you spend enough time around Lesch-Nyhan people, the fact that this person is trying to attack you drops out of sight and you find yourself just dealing with another person. And the fact that this person has already cut his nose off with a fork and is in restraints and takes swings at you with Kevlar gloves becomes invisible.'"*
posted by ericb at 1:40 PM on June 5, 2008


disillusioned's suggestion taken and run with, for better or worse, in the blue. I hope you find it helpful, anonymous78, although I'm sure ericb would have done a better job.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 2:41 PM on June 5, 2008


Bora Horza Gobuchul -- you've done a fine job with your FPP.
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2008


Borza, holy carp, it was your FPP I read.

God, that was horrible.
posted by canine epigram at 6:11 AM on June 6, 2008


Wow, that article was horrifying and fascinating.
posted by sarcasticah at 8:14 AM on June 6, 2008


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