Apr 16 2013

Body Integrity Identity Disorder

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14 responses so far

14 Responses to “Body Integrity Identity Disorder”

  1. Ori Vandewalleon 16 Apr 2013 at 11:48 am

    I find it interesting that there’s a correlation with gender identity disorder. That could certainly just mean that individuals who are physically male but feel female naturally don’t feel as if their penis is their own, but I could imagine the reverse being the case.

    If for whatever reason your homonculus never mapped your genitalia correctly, then you may respond by taking body image cues from women. By the time you’ve developed your own self-image, you will feel female on the inside.

    (And I imagine all of this could be true for female to male transgenders as well.)

  2. jreon 16 Apr 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I was massively intrigued by Anil Ananthaswamy’s article in Matter, as I suppose anyone would be — the first time you hear about BIID it sounds more bizarre than anything you could have imagined.

    And I happened on that article by accident. Tom Levenson recommended another excellent article by Cynthia Graber, currently a fellow in Tom’s science journalism program. With those two articles, I was hooked. I subscribed to Matter, and have never regretted it.

  3. Dianeon 17 Apr 2013 at 7:45 am


    Funny; I, too, have wondered whether there might be some similarities between body integrity disorder and gender identity disorder. It would be nice if there were some way for people to get their gender identity (or mental image of their body) and their physical body into agreement without the use of surgery and hormones. But we are very far from figuring out what could be done, and in the meantime both people with BID and transgender people are likely to be very offended by the suggestion that their deeply-felt understanding of who they are is a manifestation of a neurological problem. So I would be surprised if much progress is made on this issue anytime soon.

  4. Ori Vandewalleon 17 Apr 2013 at 8:38 am


    I’m sympathetic to the fact that transgendered people don’t want to be labeled as neurologically wrong. I think it’s better to look at it from this point of view: a very large number of variables play into how our brains develop. Most of the time, those variables converge on a gender identity and physical sex that seem to coincide. Sometimes, they don’t. But what this means is that no matter what your mental image of yourself is, it’s dependent on your neurological development. All of what a human is can be deconsructed into something physical, but that doesn’t make it any less genuine; that’s just what genuine actually means.

    But if a person is unhappy with their identity for whatever reason, there should be resources available to help.

  5. HHCon 17 Apr 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Would not the amputation of a healthy limb in a person with BIID be considered fraud by a healthcare insurance provider?

  6. superdaveon 17 Apr 2013 at 6:46 pm

    What we really need to is to dissociate biologically uncommon with sociologically wrong.

  7. Marshallon 18 Apr 2013 at 11:27 am

    Steve, the link to your most recent blog post on Predicting the Future appears to be broken.

  8. Steven Novellaon 18 Apr 2013 at 11:58 am

    Thanks. Working now.

  9. HHCon 18 Apr 2013 at 9:17 pm

    If we have to use disassociation to accept this phenomenon, will vanity influence insurance economics?

  10. HHCon 19 Apr 2013 at 5:43 pm

    If persons with BIID in the U.S.A. pay out of pocket over $20,000 for amputation, do they attempt to recover their intentional disability from our social security system?

  11. daedalus2uon 22 Apr 2013 at 9:47 pm

    The connections of sensory nerves to the brain pretty much have to be learned. There simply isn’t enough data in the genome to specify each connection.

  12. postmanon 06 May 2013 at 8:57 am


    Are you saying that changing the wiring of the brain would be less invasive than a simple surgery or hormone therapy? Yes, I would be offended in their place, too.

    I think that even if such therapies are available , it should be the individual’s choice how to deal with their situation.

  13. tashiegirlon 27 Jul 2013 at 1:57 am

    Hi, I think i might have an interesting case of BIID. I’m totally congenitally blind, but my homonculus is sighted, or as sighted as it can be, given that I can’t see with my physical eyes. I find the mismatch between my brain and body to be quite strange, and I’m working on trying to develop a way to experience color with my fingertips so that I can feel more myself.

  14. TerraCinqueon 10 Aug 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Steve, you wrote:

    “Further, in patients who did have the limb amputated, 70% had resolution of the desire for amputation, while 30% had a recurrence of the desire.”

    What does the 30% recurrence mean? Does it mean the patient continued to feel the presence of the amputated limb, as in Phantom Limb Syndrome, and continued to feel the need to have it amputated? Or did the desire to have an appendage amputated shift to another part of the body?

    Also, how up-to-date was the review you studied? Everything else I’ve read about the disorder has suggested near-100% satisfaction and relief after the “extra” limb was amputated.

    I don’t know if you’re still monitoring these comments, so I’ll also email these questions to you. Thanks!

    Vandy Beth Glenn

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