(Newsweek) Cutting Desire
A rare condition compels its sufferers to want to amputate, or paralyze, their own healthy limbs. Inside the strange world of what sufferers call Body Integrity Identity Disorder.
“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.”
Surprising as it may seem, Josh is not alone. He has what some scientists are calling Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), an exceedingly rare condition characterized by an overwhelming desire to amputate one or more healthy limbs or become paraplegic. The desire to be disabled seems so bizarre and contrary to basic human instincts that those who suffer from BIID have largely kept their compulsion a secret. But online communities of those with BIID have formed over the last decade, galvanizing a small movement to bring the disorder into the open.