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Anthropophagy (Cannibalism): The Types, Causes and Effects

Updated on January 29, 2017

Anthropophagy refers to the act of eating human's flesh. It carries the same meaning with cannibalism which is the act a human develops of eating flesh of another human being including internal organs.

A cannibal is a person who has developed the act of cannibalism, eating of human flesh.

This act of eating human flesh has spanned for decades both as a custom and practice.

Cannibalism is not only extended to human beings alone but also to animals (zoology). Whether for food or sexual matter, this is whereby an individual of a particular species of animal eats an individual of the same species of animal either in whole or in parts.

Leopard | Source

In humans, sexual cannibalism is rare. This is whereby humans engage in this act for sexual purposes, to elicit sexual satisfaction or feelings. Those who practice cannibalism for sexual purposes are referred to as socialpaths. This cannot be termed as anthropophagy.

The cases of people murdering others and consuming their flesh for sexual satisfaction have been referred to as mentally ill, although not all of them. Such people who were termed mentally ill were Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish.

Despite the fact consumption of another human's flesh is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) as a mental disorder, there are cases of autophagia (self-cannibalism) which have been reported. And, they are addictive. Is it also a mental disorder?

Do you think fingernail biting and sucking blood from a wound is cannibalism?

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Types of Anthropophagy

There are two major types of cannibalism:

a) Endocannibalism

This is a situation whereby an individual consumes the flesh of another individual from the same group or community.

b) Exocannibalism

In this case an individual eats the flesh of another person from a different group or outside community.

As stated by Psychology Today, "Some acts of endocannibalism are actually acts of necro-cannibalism (i.e the eating of flesh from dead humans also known as necrophagy) where dead people's parts are eaten as either part of the grieving process, as a way of guiding the souls of the dead into the bodies of the living, and/or as a way of imbibling the dead person's 'life force' or more specific individual characteristics."

Lion | Source

In the case of exocannibalism, the act of eating human's flesh was a way of celebrating victory after a battle won against another tribe or community.

Women's flesh were never consumed as it was believed it would result to emasculation.

The similarity between the two types is that the cannibals believed or do so, when they consume the flesh of others, they would possess the characteristics of that person including endearing (courage) and intelligence, and may be cleverness.

There is a third type of cannibalism:

c) Auto-cannibalism

Also known as self-cannibalism or autosarcophagy, this involves eating of one's flesh.

Eating one's flesh can be voluntary or involuntary. For example, biting the fingernails, one can be involved in it fully knowing what he/she is doing, or does it without realizing. This includes eating a part of flesh that has stuck out especially from a minor wound.

However, there are cases when auto-cannibalism goes overboard when people do so for body modification. Others drink their own blood referred to as auto-vampirism. Then it signifies every one of us has been involved in cannibalism (auto-cannibalism).

Nevertheless, what about the cases when one ingests or sucks his/her own blood in order to stop the bleeding or more blood flowing out from a wound, for example, when one has accidentally cut his finger with a knife when peeling an onion? Is it auto-cannibalism? Does one do it for pleasure or is there a feeling one gets from drinking the blood?

Some state it is auto-cannibalism while others are opposed to it stating it is not the case. There must be intent in order for one to be involved in cannibalism. Fingernail biting might result from the habit one develops of eating finger nails which is a form of pica. Most of auto-cannibalism is done unwilling with no intent of satisfaction developed from eating a part of meat such as one that has stuck out or sucking blood from a wound in order to stop bleeding.

National Geographic documentary Cannibal Tribes´ Scariest Secrets Pacific Tribes

Fauna of Africa
Fauna of Africa | Source

Reasons for Eating Human's Flesh

What might be the reason why people eat another's human flesh? When did it begun? What made people begin to consume flesh of a human being? There is one group who state the reason resulted out of necesssity or as a result of ritual practices.

In the case of out necessity, this is evident during times of famine when people resort to eating human's flesh in order to survive. This might involve murdering of an immediate family member or consuming an already dead body.

Eating Human Flesh is Addictive

Iit should be realized consuming human flesh is addictive as is the case with cigarrete smoking. Not only does the canibal delight in consuming human's flesh but also derives pleasure in hunting humans for meat.

When a person tastes the meat, "the centre pleasure of the brain becomes activated and large amounts of dopamine are released - similar to what happens when someone ingests a drug like cocaine," states Huffingpost. This means the person seeks for more human's flesh in order to regain the feeling of satisfaction or pleasure.


Man-eaters are animals who incorporate in their diet human's meat. This does not take into account scavenging. Examples are crocodiles, lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas and sharks.

This is also a form of cannibalism as was mentioned cannibalism involves consumption of human flesh.

Interview with a Cannibal


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