Skip to main content

Devotees, Pretenders and Wannabes: Two Cases of Factitious Disability Disorder


Despite having been described for more than a century, there is no understanding of the origin of the attractions, desires and behaviors of devotees, pretenders and wannabes (DPW's). Devotees are non-disabled people who are sexually attracted to people with disabilities, pretenders are non-disabled people who act as if they have a disability by using assistive devices and wannabes actually want to become disabled, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths to have a limb amputated. Two cases are presented in an effort to understand the psychology of DPW's and to suggest one psychologic concept—that of Factitious Disability Disorders—that may explain not only the obsession to be with disabled persons, but also the desire to pretend to be disabled and even the compulsion to become disabled. Also presented is a combined cognitive-behavioral approach to modify DPW's obsessions and compulsive, intrusive, illegal and sometimes self-injurious behaviors.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Storrs B: Devotees of disability. New Mobility 6:50–53, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Storrs B: Amputees, Inc.: Amputees pitching products and themselves to devotees of disability. New Mobility 7: 26–31, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Nattress LE: Amelotasis: A descriptive study (2nd Ed). Unpublished doctoral dissertation, 1996.

  4. 4.

    von Krafft-Ebing E: Psychopathia Sexualis. Brooklyn: Physicians And Surgeons Books, 1932.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Dickes R: Fetishistic behavior. J Am Psychoanal Assoc 11: 303–330, 1963.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Davison C: Intrapsychic factors in the choice of a sexual object. Psychoanal Q 12: 217–222, 1943.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Fleischl MF: A man's fantasy of a crippled girl. Am J Psychother 14: 471–748, 1960.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Stekel W: Sexual aberrations (Vol 2). New York, Horace Liveright, 1930.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Money J: Paraphilia in females: Fixation on amputation and lameness. J Psych Human Sexuality 3: 165–172, 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Wakefield PL, Frank A, Meyers RW: The hobbyist: A euphemism for self-mutilation and fetishism. Bull Menninger Clinic 41:539–552, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Everaerd W: A case of apotemnophilia. A handicap as sexual preference. Am J Psychother 37: 285–293, 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Hirschfeld M: Sexual Anomalies. New York, Emerson Books, 1956.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    London LS: Dynamic Psychiatry: Transvestism-Desire for crippled women (Vol 2). New York. Corinthian Publications, 1952.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Money J, Jobaris R, Furth G: Apotemnophilia: Two cases of self-demand amputation as a paraphilia. J Sex Res 13: 115–125, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Money J, Simcoe KW: Acrotomophitia, sex and disability: New concepts and case report. Sexuality and Disability 7: 43–50, 1986

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Money J: The Adam Principle. Buffalo, Prometheus Books, 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Ollason JG: An interview with Mayda OverGround 5: 12–20, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Dixon D: An erotic attraction to amputees. Sexuality and Disability 6: 3–19. 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Ollason JG: Why devotees sometimes behave badly. Available:, 1997, July 7.

  20. 20.

    Frick NM, Bruno RL: Post-Polio Sequelae: Physiological and psychological overview. Rehabil Lit 47: 106–111, 1986.

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Taylor B: Amputee fetishism: an exclusive journal interview with Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins. Maryland State Med J March: 35–38, 1976.

  22. 22.

    Woody RH: Integrated aversion therapy and psychotherapy. J Sex Res 9:313–324, 1973.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Ollason JG: Denise Anne: An interview with the ultimate wannabe. OverGround 6:20–35, 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Riddle GC: The origins of devotees' attraction. Invited presentation to the Fascination Conference, Chicago, 1988.

  25. 25.

    Steen N: Wannabe's page. Available:, 1997, July 7.

  26. 26.

    Anderson C: A little about me. Available:∼paracathy/MYSELF.TXT, 1997, July 7.

  27. 27.

    Bruno RL: Predicting hyperactive behavior as a cause of non-compliance with rehabilitation: The Reinforcement Motivation Survey. J Rehabil 61: 50–57, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Blumer D, Heilbronn M: The pain-prone disorder: A clinical and psychological profile. Psychosomatics 22: 395–402, 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Blumer D, Heilbronn M: Chronic pain as a variant of depressive disease. J Nerv Ment Dis 170: 381–406, 1982.

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Gentry WD, Shows WD, Thomas M: Chronic low back pain: A psychological profile. Psychosomatics 15: 174–177, 1974.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    “Paul:” A letter from Paul. OverGround 6:42–51, 1996.

  32. 32.

    Riddle GC: Amputees and devotees: Made for each other? New York: Irvington Publishers, 1988.

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Stoller RJ: Observing the erotic imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    “Fritz:” A prosthetist's perspective. OverGround 3: 7–15, 1993.

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bruno, R.L. Devotees, Pretenders and Wannabes: Two Cases of Factitious Disability Disorder. Sexuality and Disability 15, 243–260 (1997).

Download citation

  • amputees
  • paraphilias
  • sexual deviations
  • factitious disorders
  • Munchausen's syndrome