There are tons of strange disorders and identity disorders that plague the general population. Over the years, the media has become so body obsessed that it is no wonder that strange body disorders like body integrity identity disorder pop up far more commonly than you might imagine. Though these disorders can be quite disturbing, they do exist and people do genuinely suffer from them.
What is Body Integrity Identity Disorder or BIID?
Put quite simply, or as simply as something so strange can be put, those that suffer from body integrity identity disorder feel that they would be happier and live a better life if they were in fact an amputee. This disorder is directly related to xenomelia or the feeling that one or more body part does not belong to the body that possesses it. In most cases, the disorder is categorized by the desire of the sufferer to amputate one or more healthy limbs in order to achieve the desired end result. This disorder can also be directly related to apotemnophilia, or the sexual arousal of imagining oneself as an amputee. Though this type of disorder is more common than you might imagine, it is still quite strange and there are few reported or recorded cases.
The problem according to scientists rests in the parietal lobe that is associated with the mapping of the body. With those that want to amputate limbs it is theorized that the affected limb is not included in the brains mapping of the body in some way or other leading to the innate desire to remove it.
Symptoms of Body Integrity Identity Disorder
Those that are affected by this disorder refer to themselves as transabled. There are a few distinct and highly recognizable characteristics of this and similar disorders and knowing a thing or two about them might help you identify someone with this disorder. The first symptom is the nagging, insistent, and uncomfortable feeling with the limb that is affected. In most cases, these individuals will feel as if the part of the body they want amputated is not part of their body, they will be uncomfortable with it both physically and mentally and may even be disturbed by it causing issue with their day to day function in life.
The next symptom is the feeling that the removal of this limb will take away all discomfort. Those affected may talk about amputation and self amputation in order to relive the feelings that they are experiencing. They may also feel that voluntary amputation will do them good and take away any feelings of anxiety and pain that they have associated with the limb they desire to be removed. This is a difficult feeling to deal with as many that feel they have a body part that is not part of their body may obsess about its removal.
Another symptom is of course the distinct envy of those that are in fact actual amputees. They will often feel that if they could just be an amputee they too would be happy. In many cases, those that suffer from this will work to keep their feelings hidden and will even feel ashamed of the way they feel. In some cases those that suffer from this disorder will go out of their way to injure the limb they want removed so that they can facilitate medical intervention and amputation. This is a disorder that affects less people than researchers previously thought but it does in fact affect people every day.
Some doctors cite this disorder or sexual orientation as the motivation for having these feelings. Someone that suffers from apotemnophilia will become sexually aroused by the idea of becoming an amputee. This should not be confused with acrotomophilia or the sexual attraction to someone that is an amputee. However in some cases the two are not mutually exclusive and they will come paired with one another.
Those that suffer from apotemnophilia are sexually aroused by the image of themselves as an amputee and may even seek role play of some type to facilitate this fantasy. In some cases, these individuals will even go to the lengths of self amputation or voluntary amputation to get their sexual satisfaction.
Voluntary Amputation/ Self Amputation
The phenomena that is often used to help those suffering from this disorder is of course voluntary or self amputation. This may also be called body modification amputation. The process is quite simple in technical terms. Much like a damaged limb would be professionally removed, with voluntary amputation the limb is removed by a professional team that can help stop the blood, reconnect tissue, and close up the wound for proper healing. That being said, there are two sides to the argument.
In some cases doctors argue that the hippocartic oath that they take prohibits them from amputating a perfectly healthy limb as it is not really in the pursuit of making the person healthier. Some even argue that this is going against the ethics of what they agreed upon when they became a doctor. Those that are against this type of body modification argue that it is detrimental to amputate a healthy limb when it comes to all the possible complications and the fact that the mental state of the individual is not taken into account. Those that are against this type of procedure also argue that the person getting it done is not in their right mind as they do suffer from a documented mental disorder making it impossible for them to consider and understand the repercussions of having a healthy limb removed. There are two sides to every coin however.
Some doctors gladly perform the surgeries and amputations as they argue it is helpful and needed to make the individual happy. Those that are for these type of procedures will amputate because they argue that the offending limb causes mental duress and pain for the patient making it necessary to remove it to help return these patients to a healthy and happy mental state in which the limb no longer offends them. Those that suffer from this disorder have very few options they argue.
These patients can either subject themselves to hours upon hours of therapy, drugs to make them feel normal, and ridicule at the hands of their peers in an effort to feel normal and get rid of the symptoms that they suffer, or they can simply have the offending member removed. It is important that in this type of argument, the opinion of the local government be taken into account as well. In Great Britain for instance no hospital is allowed to voluntarily remove a healthy limb as it is deemed inappropriate while the United States is still up in the air as to the legality of this issue.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder in the History Books
The first documented case of this disorder is written in a medical textbook from the year 1785. The book was written by French surgeon Jean-Joseph Sue who in his book, describes the voluntary removal of the leg of one man who fell in love with a one legged woman and sought to gain her affections. The doctor claimed that the man offered him 100 guineas to which the doctor refused. The man then forced the doctor to perform the surgery at gunpoint.
Another historical case of BIID disorder is that of an English surgeon at the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary where doctor Robert Smith amputated the legs of two patients at their request and was planning a third operation before he was shut down. The pioneering neuropsychiatrist that helped to found the disorder documented the cases of a few patients with the disorder in his book Psycopathia Sexualis. He writes of three cases, the first is a young factory worker that is aroused by the sight of disfigured women, often those that were lame or had disfigured feet. He writes of another case of a civil servant that was also obsessed sexually with women that were lame. These are both prime examples of body identity integrity disorder.
The first modern case of BIID was studied in the Journal of Sex by John Money. He claims that many of those that are sexually aroused by amputation may see the stump as a phallic symbol. Others however claim that the main cause of BIID is the feeling that the affected limb is simply not part of the body. In the 300 documented cases of the disorder more were predominately male and most often it was the arms that were affected by the disorder. In many cases, those that suffer from the disorder will act as if the limb is not present, tying it back, using a wheel chair or crutches, and even living as if they do not have the limb in the hopes that some day they will have to live without it. Much like a transgender individual will dress as the opposite sex prior to sex change surgery, these individuals will role play and fantasize about the day when the limb will be gone for good.