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The Secret Life of a Wanna-Be Amputee

Updated on August 25, 2011

Body Integrity Identity Disorder

Known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (B.I.I.D.); the term refers to a very real and serious condition that affects thousands of people but seldom regards the people who suffer from it with respect and dignity. B.I.I.D. is indeed a hard concept to grasp. To break it down; Body Integrity Identity Disorder is a psychological condition in which an individual actively pursues a selective amputation. Individuals with this condition experience the persistent desire to have their body physically match the idealized image they have of themselves. The image being one where a limb or several are absent because in the minds of those who suffer from it they are “already” amputees or “meant to be” amputees. The concept of Body Integrity Identity Disorder however, does not only surround a feeling or need for amputation but may also affect people in other ways; such as having a need to be a paraplegic, or to be deaf, or to be blind. Most individuals who suffer from this condition can sight early childhood memories recalling the first amputee or disability they saw that resulted in acquiring a strong desire to have their own bodies modified in the same way. Many have said the feeling is one of “recognition” and “understanding.” Individuals with B.I.I.D. often report that these feelings have existed long before they were adults stemming as early to their first childhood years.

Discovering the Secret World of B.I.I.D.

What has made this topic so fascinating to me is the actual normalness behind those who suffer from this condition.  I was first introduced to the secret world of wanna-be amputees by the film “Quid Pro Quo” Directed by Carlos Brooks. The film centers around a wheelchair bound reporter who gets an anonymous tip leading him to stumble upon a strange subculture of wanna-be amputees; people who are not disabled who have the need or want to be disabled. The film, eloquently shot and beautifully portrayed got me instantly hooked. The characters were fascinating and their humanity striking. In short, I loved the film and upon finishing it instantly began to research about this very real, much unknown world. 

The Challenges and Dangers People with B.I.I.D Face

In many cases those who suffer from B.I.I.D. have been known to become so desperate to actualize their needs that they have gone to extreme and painful lengths to try to purposely force an amputation. Examples include methods of using dry ice to the point where a surgeon is forced to remove a limb. Many other suffers who turn to desperate methods have also used shot guns as well as cutting and burning as methods to increase their chances of having their desired amputation or modification. What we are seeing today, is that as more media attention is being drawn to those who suffer from B.I.I.D. in all its forms, more medical professionals are being forced to evaluate questions on whether or not it is ethical to remove a perfectly healthy and operating limb even if it is upon consent and request of the patient. Many hospitals who are able to perform such desired effects receive so much backlash from the medical community and the public that they are eventually always forced to stop, leaving those who suffer with nowhere to go. It is my concern that unless medical professionals and the public can begin to try to understand the community of Body Identity Integrity Disorder sufferers more seriously, many people will continue to get so desperate to be happy with who they are that they will continue to try to achieve what they need by methods that place them in serious and critical danger.

What is "Normal" Really?

What I discovered was those who suffer from B.I.I.D. are all intelligent, well educated and perfectly so called “normal” apart from their condition. Those who do not understand them should try to open their minds and put themselves in their shoes. Often it is people who have become disabled not by choice that find the notion of “wanting” to be an amputee or “wanting” a disability” the most uncomfortable. Though the concept at first may be difficult to understand, those who suffer should not simply be disregarded or condemned as psychologically incompetent. Those who suffer from B.I.I.D. only ask to try to be understood and do not wish to harm other people. Their only request is for surgery to allow them to lead their life the way they believe they are meant to be. Ask yourself, what really is “normal?” Normal is a concept, made up in our minds. Normal is what we are taught, what we learn from our environment, our culture, our countries and customs. There is no real “normality”. Something that is normal to me may be absolutely foreign and incomprehensible to you simply because we are each on a different end of a pendulum. For those with B.I.I.D. they are not whole. Many will go to any length to make this need and desire a reality.


The documentary “Whole” directed by Melody Gilbert further serves to enlighten people about the lives of people with B.I.I.D. and dares to ask new questions about body image, cosmetic surgery, body modification, and the lengths people will go to complete what they believe is their true selves. After all what is the purpose of life if you do not feel "complete" ?

Cover Art of the Documentary "Whole" By Melody Gilbert
Cover Art of the Documentary "Whole" By Melody Gilbert


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