Last year, I was watching my one of my favorite day time talk show, Anderson Live, shortly after it’s debut. The subject matter in one particular episode was so disturbing, that a year later it randomly comes to my mind. In this particular episode there were what normal people would refer to as “fake paraplegics” but these people were not faking paralysis for the purpose of monetary gain or sympathy…they claimed to truly desire to be paraplegic. Needless to say this upset the paraplegics of America, who commented on the Anderson site, and wrote their own blogs. One particular guest on Anderson Live, named Chloe, has since been on numerous television shows and told her story of suffering from “Body Identity Integrity Disorder”. When I watched the Anderson show talking with Chloe, felt physically ill. Not because I could not venture out to believe that this woman does indeed have severe psychological problems, but because the psychiatrist on the show with Chloe seemed to believe that closely accommodating her desire to live in a alternate reality is the answer. Chloe is in a wheel chair twelve hours a day. “Unfortunately” most surgeons do not take Chloe’s disorder seriously…and refuse to perform a surgery to snip her spinal cord and purposefully paralyze her for life…..yes, how “unfortunate”. That last bit was what still makes me cringe.

   I study psychology and since the airing of that Anderson episode, I have read about disordered minds, literally, back to back. It is enough to make any average person with average dramas and fears believe themselves to be crazy. There is a difference in emotional scars causing disorders, and neurological mapping disorders causing identity disorders. Since BIID is relatively a newly discovered disorder, and one that is under researched, I have yet to have the gagging privilege of studying it academically. So I tortured myself by reading about it today. 

   “Psychiatrists thought BIID was a fetish for a long time, but in the past two years brain research suggests it is a neurological condition in which the affected limb is not represented in the brain’s model of the body.

“For cases where sufferers want to amputate healthy limbs, that is a possible explanation.

But for cases like Chloe’s it is more difficult to explain on those terms.

“A minority of sufferers want to be paralysed, or believe that they should have been born with conditions such as MS or diabetes, or that they should be blind.

So far there have been no more than 300 documented cases, the vast majority of which were documented by Michael First, the psychiatrist who originally coined the name BIID in 1998.

But if you suffered from this condition, you probably wouldn’t want to tell anyone – not even the people who are closest to you.

Sufferers have tried antidepressants and psychotherapy, neither of which seem to work.

Often, the only treatment to help someone is giving them a clean, medical amputation to stop them causing harm to themselves.

Doctors in America are currently developing Mirror Box Therapy – an approach generally used to treat people who have had limbs amputated for medical reasons, and are experiencing phantom limb syndrome.”

Further I found a site with a banner with a morbidly sad looking face of a man…

Walking down the street and admiring someone’s shoes or outfit is perfectly normal; it’s human nature to glance at others when we pass them. Seeing someone coming down the street that has clearly had an amputation and wishing that you were them may not be as widely accepted as the previously stated situation. Those who feel this way may be suffering from a condition called body identity integrity disorder. Someone suffering from this disorder actually longs for the absence of a limb. They may fantasize what it would be like to only have one arm or one leg. Although it may not be very common there are people who suffer from this disorder. This disorder can actually take over someone’s life. They may become overly obsessed with trying to obtain that absence of a limb. These sufferers feel that without a limb they will finally feel complete”
I’m no saint…I did laugh. Further reading on the site, did talk about the various therapies, including some cases where anti psychotic drugs and anti depressants, and some of the same drugs used for ADHD or OCD have proven to be partially beneficial for these patients…some reported not fantasizing as much about cutting off their limbs.

  I am still a skeptic. BIID is more than a disorder of identity which manifest themselves in various forms of self abuse, such a eating disorders or cutting. This is much like the new interpretation for homosexuals who don’t call themselves homosexuals but instead believe that they are the opposite sex in the wrong body, and therefore are not lesbian or gay, but are instead a straight male or female being forced to live what looks like a homosexual lifestyle until they have gender reassignment surgery. See any Chaz Bono interview to explain what I just said. Back to the BIID, if the brain is not identifying said limb or body in the correct proportion, what neuron or chemical is NOT firing…it is not a mood disorder so an anti depressant may not be working for a reason? Has behavior modification therapy worked….maybe using props like the limb you do not desire…this is my leg it works for a reason…repeat after me. Ok I am being a less than compassionate snob. What has helped Chloe is performing in a wheel chair for about twelve hours a day, this keeps her from throwing herself down slopes to attempt to paralyze herself. This may be a form of behavior therapy, but is just seems to me that it is what we know as behavior therapy in reverse. Modeling more towards what Chloe thinks that she wants to be…or believes that she is or was born to be…instead what she IS…which is not paraplegic. I fear the day, when there ARE surgeons who snip the spines of healthy people to make them more “comfortable”…why cant we just tell the truth. What about the numerous cases where there is really deep emotional pain and people with REAL amputations and REAL paraplegia who are suffering from it. In all honesty I just want to be like…

But that is not the psychologist way….which brings me back to Chloe. Chloe is a research scientist in psychiatry. On one hand this tells me that yes, BIID is real and a real burden to live with. Chloe is smart and is looking for cures for herself. On the other hand, it could tell me that Chloe is smart and is looking for ways to live the way that she wants to…in a wheel chair until the day comes that she meets her ultimate existence as a paraplegic…not a quadriplegic and not dead-just paralyzed from the waist down…or at least in one leg.