Michael Jackson has died. And predictably, reports of his various mental health issues have rapidly come to the fore.
Of course, anyone who has been paying attention knew that Jackson was troubled. Over the past twenty-five years, his physical appearance radically changed. The glaringly obvious alterations of his nose, chin, facial structure, and skin tone indicate that he had multiple cosmetic procedures, and suggest that he suffered from a significant case of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Recent reports have also suggested that he experienced clinical Hypochondria (health anxiety), as well as an eating disorder (possibly Anorexia). There have also been reports of serious prescription drug problems, and severe insomnia that may have led to some of his alleged drug use. All of these issues are of course in addition to the very public charges of child molestation that resulted in his earlier arrest, indictment, and subsequent acquittal on sex charges.
Perhaps the saddest part of this dreary tale is that this talented man appeared to become overwhelmed by his personal demons, and had the power and money to indulge those demons. Like Elvis before him, Jackson was catapulted to fame at a young age, and appeared unable to handle its pressures. And like Elvis, he appeared to have no shortage of people willing to accommodate and enable his various psychiatric issues. When Jackson sought repeated cosmetic surgeries that ultimately disfigured him, he apparently had no difficulty finding surgeons willing to perform procedures that were arguably unethical.
The coming year will likely see an onslaught of tell-all books that provide details of Jackson’s psychiatric issues. And while we’ll never know the full and accurate story, it seems safe to say that his most enduring legacy may be not just his music, but his psychiatric downfall.
•Tom Corboy, MFT, is the director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles, a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions. In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment. To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.