I am wondering whether is there a name for a phenomenon where one has feelings of "alienation" or feels that body parts (limbs, internal organs, etc) do not belong to him or are not "part of his body" ?

For example - imagine a case where someone loses an arm and is transplanted with a new one, to which he feels that it does not really belong to his body.

I am looking for the name and some details about this type of psychological condition

  • $\begingroup$ You might want to look into Body Dysmorphic Disorder as a starting point, although I don't think it speaks exclusively to alienation from a specific body part I believe it includes that condition. $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ @lysergic-acid I would suggest a review of the answers as Ofri's answer appears more suitable in addressing your original question. Please see comments to his answer. $\endgroup$
    – coeus
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 22:23

2 Answers 2


See the relevant psychological disorders that relate to your question:

  1. Body Dysmorphic Disorder
  2. Body Integrity Identity Disorder
  3. Xenomelia

Xenomelia would be the most likely disorder in-line with your description. The definition is very similar to your description (Lutz and Brugger, 2012):

Xenomelia is the oppressive feeling that one or more limbs of one’s body do not belong to one’s self.

See Sedda (2011) for a discussion around how Body integrity identity disorder may relate to Xenomelia. The author examines the possibility of BIID as being both a neurological syndrome and a psychological disorder:

Recently, McGeoch and colleagues provided the first direct evidence that the sense on incompleteness reported by BIID patients (First 2005) finds a correspondence in a dysfunctional activity of the right parietal lobe (McGeoch et al. 2011), strongly supporting the hypothesis that BIID in not simply a paraphilia but rather a neurological syndrome (Blanke et al. 2009; Ramachandran and McGeoch 2007; Aoyama et al. in press). McGeoch and colleagues propose that ‘xenomelia’, from the Greek terms ‘foreign’ and ‘limb’, would describe this new parietal lobe syndrome better than apotemnophilia or body integrity identity disorder (McGeoch et al. 2011).

See Brugger et al. (2013) as well. They examines the mind-based and brain-based considerations in understanding the nature of the Xenomelia as a disorder in itself. I've inserted an image of a Venn diagram depicting three approaches in understanding the factors that causes Xenomelia symptoms:

A view of xenomelia research that integrates three approaches

From: Brugger, P., Lenggenhager, B. & Giummarra, M.J. (2013). Xenomelia: A social neuroscience view of altered bodily self-consciousness. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 204.


  • Hilti, L.M., Hanggi, J., Vitacco, D.A., Kraemer, B., Palla, A., Luechinger, R.J. & Brugger, P. (2012). The desire for healthy limb amputation: structural brain correlates and clinical features of xenomelia. Brain, 136(1), 318-329.
  • Sedda, A. (2011). Body integrity identity disorder: From a psychological to a neurological syndrome. Neuropsychology, 21, 334-336.
  • Brugger, P., Lenggenhager, B. & Giummarra, M.J. (2013). Xenomelia: A social neuroscience view of altered bodily self-consciousness. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 204.
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    $\begingroup$ Xenomelia sounds like that!! excellent! $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 7:44

The condition is called Somatoparaphrenia, and was first described by Josef Gerstmann, in this paper:

Gerstmann, J. (1942). Problem of imperception of disease and of impaired body territories with organic lesions: relation to body scheme and its disorders. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, 48(6), 890.

For a more recent review of the topic, see:

Vallar, G., & Ronchi, R. (2009). Somatoparaphrenia: a body delusion. A review of the neuropsychological literature. Experimental Brain Research, 192(3), 533-551.

Relevant parts from this review's abstract:

Somatoparaphrenia has been reported, with a few exceptions, in right-brain-damaged patients, with motor and somatosensory deficits, and the syndrome of unilateral spatial neglect. Somatoparaphrenia, most often characterized by a delusion of disownership of left-sided body parts, may however occur without associated anosognosia for motor deficits, and personal neglect ... Somatoparaphrenia is often brought about by extensive right-sided lesions, but patients with posterior (parietal-temporal), and insular damage are on record, as well as a few patients with subcortical lesions.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 Good pick up. I agree that Somatoparaphrenia is more suitable neuropsychological disorder according to the question's description. BIID may cause one to have "feelings" of alienation towards their body but the difference is that there is a positive need/desire to become an amputee. Since Xenomelia is not a designated disorder, I would say that Somatoparaphrenia is more closer in addressing the OP's question. $\endgroup$
    – coeus
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 22:21

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