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Bodies Under Siege; Self-mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry by Armando R. Favazza, M.D.

  • Bodies under Siege

Self—mutilation and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry
second edition
Armando R. Favazza, M.D.
Although instances of deliberate skin—cutting are recorded as far back as the old and New Testaments of the Bible the behavior has generally been regarded as a symptom of various mental disorders. With the publication of Bodies Under Siege, a book described in the New York Times Magazine (July 17, 1997) as "the first to comprehensively explore self—mutilation," Dr. Armando Favazza has pioneered the study of the behavior as significant and meaningful unto itself. Drawing from the latest case studies from clinical psychiatry he broadens our understanding of self—mutilation and body modification and explores their surprising connections to the elemental experiences of healing, religions, salvation, and social balance.

Favazza makes sense out of seemingly senseless self—mutilative behaviors by providing both a useful classification and examination of the ways in which the behaviors provide effective but temporary relief from troublesome symptoms such as overwhelming anxiety, racing thoughts, and depersonalization. He offers important new information on the psychology and biology of self—mutilation, the link between self—mutilation and eating disorders, and advances in treatment. An epilogue by Fakir Musafar, the father of the Modern Primitive movement, describes his role in influencing a new generation to "experiment with the previously forbidden 'body side' of life" through piercing, blood rituals, scarification, and body sculpting in order to attain a state of grace.

The second edition of Bodies Under Siege is the major source of information about self—mutilation, a much misunderstood behavior that is now coming into public awareness.

"The second edition of the fascinating but gruesome Bodies Under Siege by Armando R. Favazza explores the various ways in which people mutilate their bodies. Favazza explores the historical background and offers insights into how and why people do truly appalling things to their limbs, heads, and genitals. He pleads for understanding for a group of patients who are often seen as bizarre and repellent." -- New Scientist

"Some young Americans who go in for body modifications say their motives are spiritual or arise from tribal origins... But Favazza says he thinks there are 'tremendous parallels' between body modification and self—injurious behavior." -- Chicago Tribune

"A compendium of cultural and clinical reports of self—mutilation and a summary of what is and what is not known about therapy, the book is a major contribution to both the anthropological and psychiatric literature. I know that having read it I will see my next self—mutilating patient through more insightful and compassionate eyes." -- Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders

"A comprehensive historical, anthropological, ethnological, and clinical account of self—mutilation." -- Journal of the American Medical Association

"A successful education of the grim clinical reality of self—mutilation. We will be reading much more about self—mutilative behavior in the coming years, and this book is the place to begin." -- Psychosomatics

Armando R. Favazza, M.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is a Fellow of both the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Psychiatrists, and is a co—founder of the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture.
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