Sunday, February 25, 2007

Apotemnophilia

I love medical mysteries. About a year ago, I saw a "Dateline NBC" show on people who have a strange condition called Body Integrity Image Disorder (BIID) or apotemnophilia (from the Greek αποτέμνειν, "to cut off" and φιλία, "to love"). It is characterized by an overwhelming desire to amputate one or more healthy limbs or other parts of the body, though it is also used to refer to people who wish to otherwise alter their bodily integrity (sans amputation). I remember telling Kyle about the program after I saw it and, in classic Kyle fasion, he refused to listen for fear that simply knowing of such a condition would cause him to develop it. (I guess you would call that apotemnophiliaphobia!)


Anyway, I've been recently interested in the metaphorical implications of such a condition. I imagine that we all have experienced, at one time or another, an overwhelming desire to cut off or cut out some part of our lives that is not necessarily "diseased"--and may seem, to the objective eye, perfectly healthy--but nevertheless somehow doesn't fit our own image of what an integrated life should look like. How do you justify such an amputation? (Of course, one of the ethical dilemmas of apotemnophilia is whether or not doctors can perform these "elective" amputations... after all, the patient is clearly suffering, but the procedure is irreversible.) One of the patients interviewed on the program I saw described looking at herself in the mirror and being deeply disturbed by the "unnatural" attachment of her (healthy) leg. What I'm wondering, for the sake of conversation, is whether or not we experience these same kind of disturbances at the sight of non-corporeal attachments?

1 comment:

kgrady said...

leigh: You realize you're just multiplying my -philiaphobias! Now I'm the guy who's afraid to admit that he loves to hear about things he's afraid he'll develop just by hearing about them, in case his friends decide to blog about it. Yeah, maybe that's my fault.