- Estimates suggest that several thousand people worldwide wish to get rid of a normal healthy limb. Such desires stem from an extremely rare psychiatric illness called body integrity identity disorder (BIID).
- BIID can be distressing, disfiguring and deadly. The afflicted agonize over their dangerous desire and may even take matters into their own hands, by crushing a leg under weights or placing the offensive limb in the way of an oncoming train.
- Some researchers believe that BIID arises from a conflict between a person’s anatomy and his or her body image. Such a mismatch could result from damage in a part of the brain that contains a map of the body—a disparity that scientists hope to resolve.
In 1997 Robert Smith, a surgeon at the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary in Scotland, fulfilled one of his patient’s deepest desires: he amputated the lower part of the man’s left leg. Smith performed a similar operation on a German retiree two years later, the British daily The Independent reported in 2000. Neither procedure was medically necessary. Both patients had told Smith that one of their legs was superfluous and that its mere presence had caused them enduring emotional pain.
Psychiatrists estimate that several thousand people worldwide, most of them male, wish to get rid of a normal healthy limb; a smaller number actually request its surgical removal. Such radical requests stem from an extremely rare psychiatric illness called body integrity identity disorder (BIID).
This article was originally published with the title Amputee Envy.