Paralyzed by desire: A new type of body integrity identity disorder

Melita Giummarra, John Bradshaw, Leonie Hilti, Michael Nicholls, Peter Brugger

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Body incongruity in body integrity identity disorder (BIID) manifests in the desire to have a healthy limb amputated. We describe a variant of the disorder: the desire to become paralyzed (paralysis-BIID). Method: Sixteen otherwise healthy participants, recruited through Internet-based forums, websites, or word of mouth, completed questionnaires about details of their desire and accompanying symptoms. Results: Onset of the desire for paralysis typically preceded puberty. All participants indicated a specific level for desired spinal cord injury. All participants simulated paralysis through mental imagery or physical pretending, and 9 (56%) reported erotic interest in paraplegia and/or disability. Our key new finding was that 37.5% of paralysis-BIID participants were women, compared with 4.4% women in a sample of 68 individuals with amputation-BIID. Conclusions: BIID reflects a disunity between self and body, usually with a prominent sexual component. Sex-related differences are emerging: unlike men, a higher proportion of women desire paralysis than desire amputation, and, while men typically seek unilateral amputation, women typically seek bilateral amputation. We propose that these sex-related differences in BIID manifestation may relate to sex differences in cerebral lateralization, or to disruption of representation and/or processing of bodyrelated information in right-hemisphere frontoparietal networks.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)34-41
    Number of pages8
    JournalCognitive and Behavioral Neurology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


    • Body integrity identity disorder
    • Laterality
    • Paraphilia
    • Paraplegia
    • Sex differences


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