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A Strange Disorder Where the Person Desires Amputation of a Healthy Body Part

Jen Slack's picture
Human Leg

Body Integrity Identity Disorder: The strange phenomenon of hating your own own body part.


I stumbled upon the intriguing subject of Body Integrity Identity Disorder many years ago. Flipping through the channels, I happened upon a documentary about the subject and was both fascinated, saddened and shocked.

Unfortunately, Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a real phenomenon that affects people in such a negative way that they hate their body parts to the point where they either amputate their own body parts or mutilate it to the point where a doctor must do so. Thankfully, it affects only a very small percentage of the population.

There are several videos and documentaries on You Tube about the subject where real people talk about the disorder.

For example, in a National Geographic video, David Oppenshaw spoke about how he felt about his leg, before his amputation. "The leg felt alien. It just didn't belong there".

He admits there was nothing really wrong with his leg, but from early childhood, simply did not like it and actually hoped it would not fall off. At one point in his childhood, his leg was accidentally cut. Instead of trying to heal the cut, David tried, unsuccessfully, to infect the cut by putting dirt on it, in hopes that it would have to be amputated by a doctor.

In 2004, David traveled from his home in Australia so that he could be studied by researchers at the University Of California. Researchers did notice that there was something different about his brain imagining as compared to a person without the disorder. In short, when physically touched, David's brain didn't register that this was happening.

Professor Vilayanur Ramachandran, neuroscientist, from the University explained, "His brain is telling him his lower right leg simply isn't there", but added, "There are strong hints that it's neurological but at this point the evidence is suggestive, maybe even compelling, but it's not conclusive.

In 2008, David took drastic measures to make sure that his leg would be amputated. He filled a bucket with dry ice, a chemical with a temperature below minus 100 degrees fareheight, and placed his leg in the bucket for 6 hours until his girlfriend came home and called an ambulance.

The hospital staff were shocked at what David had done, and after 10 days, decided they had no choice but to amputate.

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Oddly, while David today uses a prosthetic leg, he is happy.

Professor Ramachandran says this about people with BIID, after the amputations, "Basically they are happier. What you hear from the patients is that they feel more complete, more normal".

Those of use who are thankful for our body parts simply cannot relate.

Interestingly, David explains in the video that when he was a child, he knew he wanted his leg gone, but never indicated this to anyone, for fear they might think he was 'crazy'. He uses the word a few times later, in reference to the fact that he knows this is how others view this disorder.

'Crazy' is simply a word we just don't use anymore. We have a myriad of other words and phrases for what we used to call 'crazy'.

His 'crazy' thought pattern continued until his 'dream' of losing that leg was finally realized and he was happy.

He somehow went from 'crazy' to 'happy' with the loss of a leg.

Strange, isn't it?

This makes me wonder about thoughts and when they actually become a thought pattern where we are driven to act. I know myself, I too, occasionally, have thoughts that I believe are 'crazy'. However, I tend to recognize them as such and dismiss them. At least I hope that's the case.

I wonder if disorders and the like are a result of dwelling on impure or unhealthy thoughts, rather than dismissing them immediately and removing them so that they don't become a thought pattern. Once we start dwelling on them and basically giving them credence, the thoughts cannot stop, and they drive us crazy. And our brains are then affected.

What do you think? I am interested to hear.



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