Mental Health Monday–Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID)


A couple weekends ago, I got caught up in watching several episodes of a show called Taboo. One of the segments detailed a sufferer of Body Integrity Identity Disorder (formerly known as Amputee Identity Disorder).

Theory posits that the parietal lobe (responsible for allowing us to recognize our body parts as our own) is not functioning correctly. As a result, the person with BIID has a strong desire to amputate the offending limb with the belief he or she will be much happier without it.

Interestingly, KEEPING the limb intact causes significant distress, anxiety, and depression.  They will often “pretend” to be an amputee to ease some of their distress.

People with the disorder have gone to extreme lengths to red themselves of the limb they “don’t recognize,” including freezing the limb, cutting it off, or forcing doctors to remove the limb because of some irreversible damage they incur.

The majority of people with BIID are middle-aged men and they most commonly want to amputate their left leg. (Why this is the case, no one knows.)

Did you know that Christopher Paolini featured BIID in his novel, Brisingr. The Priests of Helgrin amputate a limb as a “show of faith.”

Thoughts? Comments?

Check out Lydia’s Medical Monday post and Sarah’s psychologically related post! Remember, these posts are for writing purposes only and are NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.

16 comments on “Mental Health Monday–Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID)

  1. Sarah says:

    Wow–I had actually never heard of this, and I’m stunned. What an ethical dilemma for any treater! With the proper assessment and counseling, we support people who are seeking gender re-assignment, but for some reason, THIS is much harder for me to understand. So interesting, Laura.

  2. Vicki Tremper says:

    I saw a show on TV about this a couple of years ago. There’s really not much to say because it’s hard to relate to. Of course, it would be a fascinating subject for a book.

  3. Lydia K says:

    I just can’t imagine having this problem. How strange that would feel! Great post, Laura!

  4. Linda Gray says:

    So upsetting, and apparently so little anyone can do to intervene! I also saw a show where this dx was represented — on Grey’s Anatomy (used to be one of my fave night-time soaps). Fascinating, and in this case, so distressing.

  5. Wow. I hadn’t heard of this one. It’s amazing how our own mind can trip us up.

  6. Great post! This is fascinating. I had heard of BIID before, but I hadn’t heard that strange detail that it occurs most commonly in middle-aged men, and that they most often want to cut off the left leg.

    Makes me wonder about the whole association between the left-handedness, “the left path,” the left side of things in general, and evil or sinister qualities.

  7. I’ve heard about this before, but didn’t know what it was called or about the middle-aged men thing. The author in me sees the story potential. I can’t imagine suffering from something like this.

  8. akossket says:

    This could be a fascinating and scary subject for a book. I never knew such a thing existed. this is how I feel like right now. O_O

  9. Whoa! What an interesting, disturbing disorder! I can’t imagine how to write a character with this problem. It’s so bizarre. Blessings to you, Laura…

  10. Sean says:

    Hi, I have BIID. I run a multi-author blog talking about the experience of having BIID. Not everyone who has BIID needs to be an amputee – many people, including myself, need to be paralysed, or deaf, or blind, etc.

    The statistic about “middle aged men” should be taken with a grain of salt – it comes from only one study with 50 or so participants – not enough to really tell. Anecdotal evidence (such as 15+ years interacting with hundreds of people with BIID) show me that there is a good proportion of women who have BIID.

    I haven’t read Brisingr, but if the individual cut off a limb for a “show of faith”, it wasn’t talking about BIID. People cut off their limbs for a variety of reasons – not all of them related to BIID.

    • lbdiamond says:


      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and offering your experience and expertise! I intended to offer the basic information here and didn’t mean to imply people with BIID are only middle aged men who need to amputate a limb. Thank you for pointing out that there are other variations.

      Best of luck to you!

  11. Ciara Knight says:

    This is so sad and disturbing. My heart goes out to people who suffer from BIID.

  12. EArroyo says:

    The brain is a remarkable thing.

  13. roguemutt says:

    Wow, that’s messed up. Makes me feel better about my neuroses.

  14. Donna Hole says:

    I read that first in Brisngr, and thought it a freaky thing to put in a novel. I wondered where Poulini came up with such a concept. Not long after that introduction, I saw the syndromn on Law and Order, or CSI – one of the crime shows. You know how these things go; see something unusual once and it pops up everywhere.

    I understand the symptoms, but the motivation still escapes me. One of those things my mind refuses to grasp.


    • Sean says:

      It was on CSI, and on Grey’s Anatomy – not very well covered from the point of view of someone who has BIID, FWIW.

      The “motivations” escape most of us. I am in my mid 40’s. I’ve been dealing with this thing since I was about 3 or 4. Along the way I’ve done about 20 years’ worth of therapy – only to conclude that there is no rhyme nor reason to it – it just is. I don’t WANT to feel the way I do. I have given up on understanding where it comes from. Especially since there is evidence it might be some misfire in the brain itself.

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