: Body Integrity Identity Disorder – The Strange Compulsion to Self-Amputate
Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a rare affliction that causes people to cut off their own healthy limbs. Some of those who have succeeded feel a huge sense of relief – and feel their body is better – more normal – now that the unwanted limbs have been removed.
This disorder is so odd – so strange and counter-intuitive – that sufferer’s hide it. They tell friends and family that they lost their limb in an accident or were born that way. But with the advent of the Internet, Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) support groups have sprouted up online and membership is growing.
In a Newsweek article, a man describes his many attempts at self-amputation. “ "Josh" says he was fully prepared when he amputated his left hand with a power tool. He says he had tried to cut it off before—once putting it underneath a truck and trying to crush it (the jack didn't collapse right); once attempting to saw it off with a table saw (he lost his nerve). He even spent countless miles driving around with his hand dangling out the window, hoping to get side-swiped. But this time he was determined to succeed. Josh, who insisted on anonymity because his family thinks he lost his hand in an accident, says he practiced on animal legs he got from a butcher, and he was equipped with bandages to stop the bleeding and a charged cell phone in case he got dizzy. Now, years later, Josh says he feels wonderful without his hand, that his amputation finally ended a "torment" that had plagued him since middle school. "It is a tremendous relief," he told NEWSWEEK. "I feel like my body is right.””
Many sufferers from this disorder believe that professional amputation is the best option, rather than leaving people to their own devices, and risking death in the process. And most interestingly, like members of the transgendered community who believe they were born into the wrong body, sufferers of BIID believe they were born with the wrong amount of limbs and only with amputation will they feel normal.
How many people have BIID? It is such a secretive disorder that it’s difficult to even estimate but according to Newsweek’s research, “transabled.org claims 1,500 visitors per day, while a Yahoo Web group of BIID suffers who say they are resisting the urge to amputate has 1,700 members.) They are most often white middle-aged males who refute the idea that the disorder can be treated like a mental illness with talk therapy and medication. They describe a persistent, torturous chasm between their mind's image of their own body, and the physical body they inhabit. They say their urge to "right" themselves is overwhelming. Controversially, some people who say they suffer from BIID draw parallels to the transgender community. They point out that it took years for people who felt they were born into the wrong gender to convince the medical and psychiatric professions to recognize their plight, and that transgender individuals are now protected by anti-discrimination laws in many cities and states.”