After finally moving into my apartment and setting up internet access, I decided to celebrate by relaxing and watching Netflix. It was while browsing the Documentaries section that I came across the term, “Apotemnophilia.” After quickly looking up on the definition on my search engine, I learned that this word was defined as “a disorder that blurs the distinction between neurology and psychiatry, is characterized by the intense and longstanding desire for amputation of a specific limb” (Brang, McGeoch, and Ramachandran, 2008). Unusual, right? Who would think that a person would have the desire to amputate a healthy part of their body…So I further investigated, and this is what I found:

  • Apotemnophilia is a desire most people have had since childhood
  • The afflicted will attempt to damage the desired limb of amputation in order to have it formally amputated by a doctor.
  • After amputation, people often say that they feel “complete”.
  • Some will say that this desire started after seeing an amputee at a young age and contributing this to the “ideal” body image.
  • Apotemnophilia has striking similarities to the disorder somatoparaphrenia (**will be covered in my next article), which is often caused after damage to the parietal lobe, responsible for the development of one’s body image.

After a test study, it was found that:

Apotemnophilia arises from a congenital dysfunction of the right parietal lobe; in particular, the right superior parietal lobule, which receives and integrates input from various sensory areas and the insula* to form a coherent sense of body image… When this dysfunction is acquired, as in somatoparaphrenia, the brain seems sometimes to rationalize the discrepancy by denying ownership of the limb. When the dysfunction is congenital it leads to a feeling that affected area should not be there to begin with and a desire for an amputation… The specific locus of desired amputation may depend on the exact location of the altered connections between the right superior parietal lobule and the primary and secondary somatosensory cortices, or its projections to limbic structures such as the insula…it is this discrepancy that leads to the aversion and desire for amputation. (Brang, McGeoch, and Ramachandran, 2008)

*insula: a region of the brain deep in the cerebral cortex

Edited by: Kim Rooney


Brang, D., McGeoch, P., & Ramachandran, V. (2008, August 27). Apotemnophilia: A neurological disorder. Retrieved August 24, 2015.


Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.