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 body-related information in right-hemisphere frontoparietal networks.