In recent years there has been an increase in elective amputation. There are several causes for this, Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) and several different fetishes being the main two.
Body Integrity Identity Disorder
A relatively new disorder, Body Integrity Identity Disorder is currently being discussed and defined by psychologists and psychiatrists. They are seeking to understand BIID and it origins. A clear grasp of this disorder could lead its inclusion into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Additionally, several documentaries have been produced featuring patients suffering from this disorder. Simply put this disorder causes an obsessive need to amputate a healthy limb. This disorder has caused several patients to self injury in order to force the medical community to perform the amputations they so desperately want.
Apotomnophilia’s literal definition is love of amputation. It is considered a sexual deviation. Under this fetish, people are sexually aroused by amputated limbs. Out of the phenomena, three categories have been defined. The first is the ‘devotee.’ These are individuals who are sexually aroused by amputated limbs. The second is the ‘pretender,’ or someone who uses crutches or wheelchairs in order to simulate an amputation. Finally, ‘wannabes’ are individuals actively seeking the unnecessary amputation of a healthy limb. These categories and definitions were defined in 1997 by Dr. Richard Brunon of the Englewood Hospital.
A study by Dr. First of Stanford contacted 52 patients suffering from BIID or one of the categories of Apotomnophilia. Of these 52 patients, two had successes in having a healthy limb removed while the rest expressed varying degrees of interest in amputation. Their interest varied from desire to have a limb amputated to being sexually aroused by amputees. Furthermore, among patients with a strong desire for amputations, most had very clear and specific intentions for their amputations. It is not simply that a patient desires to have their left arm amputated. Most of the time BIID suffers have a specific place they wish the amputation to be performed, such as four inches below the shoulder or one inch above the elbow. When asked to describe why they wanted the amputations, the most common answer was the desire to overcome and in fact overachieve in spite of the amputation. It is interesting to note that many of the patients contacted in the study remember coming into contact with an amputee in early childhood and have memories of playacting being an amputee themselves. Finally, in attempt to further distinguish BIID from other body image disorders, one of Dr. First patients had a lifelong desire to be a double leg amputee. He was injured in an accident, and it was medically necessary to amputate one of his arms. In support of his belief that BIID is a certified condition, the patient’s desire to have his legs amputated was not lessened by the loss of his arm.
The desire to have a healthy limb amputated has been publicized recently by several documentaries and even an episode of CSI: New York. The medical community is struggling to understand the disorders that lead people to desire amputation. In the future, a clear diagnostic system for these disorders will most likely be developed.