Published on: Sep 30, 2014 @ 13:19
“Boxing Helena” was a 1993 movie about a deranged and obsessed surgeon gradually dismembering a beautiful young woman alive, until, finally, she lives, limbless, and helpless, in a small coffin-like box.
As a movie it was simply too weird to be successful.
It touched too many truths about obsession and control for comfort.
This is a pathology that is beyond co dependency.
Or is it?
Recently, a successful and healthy young woman explained to the BBC’s “Horizon” documentary team(http://www.bbc.co.uk/horizon/obsession_script.shtml) her hearts
To have both of her healthy legs completely amputated.
Not a fantasy, she has already taken determined steps, with no success so far, to achieve this.
When they asked her how she felt it would affect her sexuality her answer was that sexuality was surely about being happy with your body image.
They interviewed several men who felt similarly, but not so radically, the men only felt they needed to have one leg removed, and the rest WERE men. A woman feeling this way seems pretty much unique.
The reasons they gave were remarkably uniform. They all said it felt as if the unwanted limb was not part of them, a deformity.
All were found to be otherwise psychologically healthy.
There are other opinions though.
Dr Felix Spector, http://www.concentric.net/~doctorf/, a remarkably open-minded and non judgmental Philadelphia Doctor who specialises in transgender and castration surgery (including self demand castration) doesn’t feel he can concur with that view at all.
While obviously uncomfortable with making any judgmental statement, he feels that “amputations of normal, healthy leg or penis, etc. is destructive, and without constructive end-result. That kind of thing has major consequence for no beneficial advantage.”
There are people who would argue that self-demand castration (unrelated to transgender surgery) falls into the same category as self-demand amputations, but he feels this is not the case. The true test, he feels, lies in the balance between the advantage and the disadvantage to the patient that will result from the procedure.
“Castration, on the contrary, has ultimate advantage, according to the goals of the individual, in desires to be female, eunuch, resolve religious goals, control unruly male libido, etc.”.
Doctor Spector’s work has attracted criticism but never from his former patients. They invariably praise his understanding, compassion and professionalism, regardless of whether the operation was self-demand or performed for acute medical reasons.
Yet even Doctor Spector can find no way to relate to the concept of a healthy obsession with having a healthy limb amputated.
The Doctors interviewed by the “Horizon” team were prepared to concede a general consensus that an obsession with amputation was possibly a manifestation of “Bodily Dysmorphic Disorder” a distorted perception of one’s own body. Anorexia would be another manifestation of this particular disorder.
J. Money, in his book “The Adam Principle” put forward a case for regarding this as another form of Factitious Disorder, of which Munchausen’s Syndrome (in which the patient constantly synthesises the appearance of illness in themselves to satisfy a craving for medical attention). Money states that the craving for amputation may “share something in common [with] Munchausen’s syndrome.” Yet, he distinguishes between the Munchausen’s patient, who “is obsessed with self-inducing symptoms repetitively for the sake of being a patient,” and those who crave amputation who appear to be satisfied by ‘just one’.
It is widely believed that the motivation for Munchausen’s syndrome is to achieve the status of a “patient” and thus receive love and care that would not otherwise be obtainable.
Is the craving for amputation a “once off” investment in a degree of “disabled” or “invalid” status for life?
This factor could hardly be applied to self-demand castration.
A much more in-depth examination of these possibilities can be found in a paper published by Richard Bruno PHD, which can be found at
A common factor in which was found by both the “Horizon” team, and Richard Bruno PHD, is a significant and vivid early memory of an amputee. In many cases the amputee concerned would have had at least a slight “mentoring” role in the child’s early life.
Whatever else, many of these people crave amputation to the extent of placing their lives at risk in an attempt to force the removal of the unwanted limbs. Some have even died as a result.
The Doctors interviewed for “Horizon” seemed to have an uneasy consensus that perhaps the ONLY course was to amputate. In every postoperative case that could be traced the problem was completely cured by amputation and never manifested in any other form. At last the patient had a contented, normal, life.
Richard Bruno PHD feels there may be other possible approaches, through psychotherapy “They must then discover that disability became a means to an end, the end being making themselves worthy of love and attention.”
Though he cannot show any successful examples.
As for myself, I am left feeling that there has to be some other way than radical, destructive surgery on demand.