Kink & BDSM

Disability Desires: People Who are Aroused by the Idea of Becoming Physically Disabled

July 14, 2017 by Justin Lehmiller


Paraphilia is the term psychologists and psychiatrists use to refer to any unusual sexual interest. It’s important to note that an unusual interest is not necessarily harmful and it’s not necessarily a sign that the person who has it is mentally disturbed either. Indeed, the mental health community makes a clear distinction between having a paraphilia (an unusual sexual interest) and a paraphilic disorder (an unusual sexual interest that is non-consensual in nature and/or that is seriously distressing to the person who has it).

Hundreds of paraphilis have been identified over the years, with some sources putting the number at over 500 [1]. I’ve blogged about many of them before, including people who are aroused by everything from urine to breast milk to diapers to insects crawling all over their bodies to feeding others and watching them eat. One that I have yet to cover—at least until now—is the desire to become physically disabled.

This is the subject of my latest column over at TONIC. In this article, I explore what scientists have learned about this interest, known as apotemnophilia, from 40 years of research on the subject. As you’ll see, the desire to become disabled can take many forms, with different people being aroused by the idea of different disabilities. However, the single most commonly documented desire involves amputation of the left leg.

In this article, I talk about the noted parallels between apotemnophilia and body dysmorphic disorder (obsessive preoccupation with a perceived bodily defect), as well as gender dysphoria (feeling trapped in the body of the wrong sex). I also explore what the science suggests about where disability desires come from, with a growing body of research pointing to changes in the part of the brain that integrates all of the body’s sensory input.

Check out the full article to learn more about this fascinating subject.

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[1] Aggrawal, A. (2009). Forensic and medico-legal aspects of sexual crimes and unusual sexual practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Image Source: 123RF/Tul Chalothonrangsee

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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