by Viki Papadakis
The main premise of Body Integrity Identity Disorder, often shortened to BIID, involves a person who feels their physical body is inadequate when compared to their mental idea of what the human body should look like. While this may seem quite similar to disorders such as anorexia or bulimia at first glance, the manifestations of BIID are actually quite different. Peculiarly, most of those afflicted with this disorder, for whatever reason, have a strong desire or urge to have one or more of their limbs amputated. Most often, the limbs that people with BIID wish to have amputated are fully functioning and essential for the completion of everyday activities.
It is estimated that BIID affects a very small percentage of the population, although many who suffer from the disorder do not make themselves well-known. Most sufferers report having had the feelings and desires associated with BIID since adolescence. The most common “trigger” that people with BIID claim is actually seeing a person missing a limb or many limbs. Upon seeing this person, sufferers of BIID feel the immediate sense of inadequacy and desire for amputation that often characterizes their disorder.While no one is entirely certain of the causes of BIID, the disease is thought to occur when the sufferer’s brain has an inaccurate “map” of the body. Because of this, the brain may regard a specific limb as “foreign” and thus cause the desire for amputation.
BIID has been classified as a personality disorder, which is characterized by a person having unreal expectations of themselves--either physically, mentally, or emotionally. A person inflicted with a personality disorder such as BIID will often have multiple manifestations, such as lower productivity, moodiness, poor relationships, obsessive behavior, and a general lack of control when dealing with their impulses. These manifestations are greatly affected by the certain circumstances the sufferer of personality disorder is exposed to. Specifically involving the manifestation of obsession, sufferers of BIID often claim that for them, the idea of amputation is almost an obsessive compulsion. Because of this, treatment for a person afflicted with BIID is often the same as treatment would be for a person afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Many people suffering from BIID will seek out doctors to remove the specific limb of interest. However, doctors most often refuse to perform any amputation surgery unless there is a physical need for this to be done. Because of this, sufferers of BIID will often attempt to create this physical need by causing harm to the limb they wish to be amputated--a very dangerous approach to achieving their idea of physical “perfection”.
BIID is often associated with acrotomophilia, a sexual fetish in which a person is attracted to the stumps created by amputation. Not all people who have the fetish of acrotomophilia have the desire to have their own limbs amputated, however; it is a mere attraction to people without certain limbs. Oftentimes, however, a person does wish to have their limb amputated for a sexual reason. Those who have undergone surgery to have one or more of their limbs removed are known as “devotees” while those who have yet to undergo the procedure are known as “wannabes”.
Discovering Human Sexuality (Second Edition) by Simon LeVay, Janice Baldwin, and John Baldwin
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