'A constant disparity': an anthropological investigation into Body Integrity Identity Disorder
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 20:03 authored by Josephine Rani Ricciuti
Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) is a contested neurological condition, which causes individuals to feel they have an 'incorrectly abled embodiment' (Davis, 2014) resulting in feelings of disconnection from and discomfort with their own bodies. To alleviate this disparity, many seek out amputation or other radical surgery to treat what feels like an intrusive limb or sense, at great risk to themselves. BIID is heavily stigmatised and largely understudied as a condition, gaining notoriety primarily through sensationalist media reports and commentaries. Highly publicised cases of BIID have resulted in public debates about the ethics of elective surgery and the legitimacy of illness experiences, but the perspectives of people with BIID are often discounted or not considered fully, allowing misconceptions to develop. This thesis presents qualitative data collected from email-based interviews and observations of internet forums, focusing on understanding lived experiences and explanatory models. This thesis demonstrates the importance of social support and disclosure in the management of BIID symptoms, and investigates these close relationships further. This thesis ultimately aims to contribute to the demystification of BIID, aligning with the goals of emerging phenomenological literature in the field of disability impairment and chronic illness studies in anthropology. This thesis demonstrates that the experience of BIID is one that is deeply embodied, and that perceivably deviant behaviours are attempts to achieve a sense of normality and wholeness.