Written by Eric Jenike
As you probably know from reading our website, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, is a debilitating mental illness characterized by an overwhelming preoccupation with a perceived defect in one’s appearance. BDD is not vanity. Sufferers often describe themselves as hideous, deformed, or ugly even though they appear quite normal or even attractive to others.
BDD can cause extreme depression, anxiety, and isolation and is associated with exhausting ritualistic behaviors aimed at decreasing anxiety or improving physical appearance. These behaviors and the distress associated with them often cause impairment at school, at work, or in social aspects of one’s life. BDD is also associated with an increased risk for suicide.
Today, I write about one family in particular that has experienced a tremendous loss as a result of BDD. On April 15th, 2011, 24-year old Nathaniel Asselin took his own life after years of suffering with BDD. His father, Denis Asselin, has recently decided to organize a memorial event to celebrate the life of his son and bring awareness to a disorder that thousands of people around the world suffer with in silence. He also hopes to raise funds for the research and treatment of this debilitating and dangerous psychiatric illness.
A spiritual seeker once asked Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh how to recover from the loss of her son, and he simply replied “walk.” Denis has taken this advice to heart and on April 24, 2012, Denis began a 500-mile walk beginning in Cheyney, PA. Denis will complete his pilgrimage on the 7th of June in Boston, MA with a rally at downtown’s Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. From 11:30AM-12:30PM that day there will be a public event MC’d by ABC News’ Dan Brown, with speakers including The MGH OCD and Related Disorder’s Program’s Dr. Michael Jenike, MD, Boston City Councilman Sal LaMattina, and finally, Denis Asselin himself.
Denis Asselin is an extremely courageous man who is attempting to turn personal tragedy into something that can benefit countless others by sharing his son’s story and increasing awareness of BDD. If you’d like to show support for Denis, please join us at the beautiful Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park from 11:30-12:30 in Boston, MA, and please visit Denis’s blog (updated daily as he walks) at http://walkingwithnathaniel.org/. If you would like to donate to the BDD cause, please click through to Denis’s website and follow the donate link at the top right to contribute funds. All proceeds go to the International Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Foundation (IOCDF). Thank you!
Image Source: Walking with Nathaniel, 2012