This is a whole new level of body modification. It’s not uncommon for people to choose to have perfectly healthy limbs removed from their bodies, but they’re even doing the surgery themselves. Body integrity identity disorder, or BIID as it is commonly known, is what psychologist Dr. Michael First has diagnosed.
Tattoos and piercing are both popular methods of enhancing one’s body. People will often change the appearance of their bodies through plastic surgery for a variety of reasons. It is however a new procedure to us, elective amputations. Elective amputations have caused many people to feel alienated with their additional limbs. One individual explains that the additional limbs “feel alien.” He describes his experience with the first two, but then tells how now he works on the third toe.
Like those who have had a sexual realignment surgery, some people with BIID feel as if it’s exactly the way it should be. It’s hard to describe, but I think you get the drift. Although some people with BIID are doing their surgeries differently, others seem to be doing it the right way. Howard Bull, 54, an independent body moderator, says some people hurt themselves with guns or chainsaws. According to him, some have even fallen on train tracks. Is there an ultimate goal for Howard? In order to be amputated above the knee, his left leg must be amputated. You’re being oddly specific there. The topic is very fascinating, and since the condition is so rare and unique, there are still many things to discover
One minority is taking body modification to another level – by voluntarily removing their own limbs. Forget plastic surgery, tattoos and piercings – they are cutting off their own limbs. In an exclusive interview, a body modifier revealed his alien-like experiences with “extra” limbs, which in turn led him to resort to self-mutilation because he actually wants to be disabled. The Cornell University professor of psychiatry, Michael First, has pioneered investigations into this extremely rare and bizarre psychiatric condition that he has named body integrity identity disorder (BIID). It’s also known as amputee identity disorder, and makes people want to get rid of perfectly good limbs.
Howard Bull, 54, is the only BIID sufferer exclusively interviewed by Daily Star Online.
The former MMA fighter said he has been crippling his toes for years, breaking, freezing, and smashing them. “I broke my big toe last May after binding it with bandages then hitting it with a hammer,” he said. After not letting it heal, by July I was so in pain I had to go to the hospital.” Nevertheless, Howard didn’t let that deter him and began to work on his other toe.
It was frozen twice with keyboard cleaner, crushed with a vice, and additionally dislocated before it was frozen again. Currently, I am focusing on my third toe – it is bent at an angle to where the others used to be.” He admits to having a grim goal: “What I really want is to lose my left leg near or above my knee.”
BIID is attributed to some trigger in his past and not to his current condition, he says, but he believes it has always been there. My fascination with every part of the body began around the age of ten when I watched an old Vincent Price movie showing a man losing all his limbs one by one.
Psychiatrist and psychologist Dr. David First is part of a small group of physicians seeking to define the disorder, understand where it comes from, and determine whether it should be treated as a disease in the encyclopedia of psychiatry.
Even though it involves mutilation or removal of healthy tissue, extreme elective surgery has met at least some acceptance in cases like sex reassignment or cosmetic surgery for those who dislike their nose or breasts regardless of their actual physical appearance. Even the most open-minded individual faces a challenge when obsessed with the desire to amputate limbs – causing them to remove healthy arms and legs.
As a desperate attempt to force an amputation, some of the disorder’s sufferers have injured themselves with guns or chain saws. Known to lay across train tracks to accomplish their goals is yet another example of their ambition. Patients with BiID are facing a bleak future, says Dr. First: “It remains extremely rare for persons suffering from BIID to seek any health care through the medical profession, since the medical professionals are unwilling or unable to step in.
According to Dr. First, an expert in rare disorders who has studied the condition for more than 15 years, these people do not view their extra limb as ugly or defective in any way, just as something that has been added. However, the stigma associated with the condition – which has been likened to body dysmorphia and transgenderism – has led to hundreds of people suffering in silence.
In his interview with Dr. First, he said: “The people you interview with this condition suffer tremendously. They worry continually, they are preoccupied, they are chaotic, and they are completely normal after having surgery.”