Self-cannibalization is very rare and till now there have been 8 identified cases. Latest issue of medical journal Australasian Psychiatry has a paper that talks about a 28-year old New Zealand man struggling with depression who cut off his own finger, cooked it with vegetables and ate it. He reportedly did the act without any evidence of impaired reality testing or substance abuse.


“Mr. X,” as he was referred to in the report by forensic psychiatrist Erik Monasterio and clinical psychologist Craig Prince, suffered from bouts of low mood, and sometimes thought of suicide, the New Zealand Herald reported, citing the report.

Once while depressed, he was attacked by two men, and fantasized about killing his assailants and eating them, the report said.

“He believed that by doing so, he would ‘rob them of everything.'”

In late 2008 after “another personal crisis,” Mr. X went into a state of depression.

“He experienced significant insomnia and suicidal ideation, and ruminated for days about cutting off his fingers,” the report says. “In an effort to seek reprieve from these thoughts, he tied a shoelace around his [little] finger to act as a tourniquet and cut the finger off with a jig saw.

“He then cooked it in a pan with some vegetables and ate its flesh. His plan was to amputate another two fingers the following day.”

Although the patient told doctors he was initially excited, in a non-sexual way, and experienced relief from his ruminations, he decided not to cut off any more fingers because of “the instantaneous benefit.”

The man later regretted the act — his first act of self-harm — “because of its debilitating effect.”Source:


Interestingly, the man didn’t show signs of severe psychosis.


The report said he had told mental health staff during previous episodes of depression about his violent thoughts and of threatening to eat part of himself, and on those occasions received more medical attention.

”It is possible that his lack of violence and any offending behaviour, as well as his lack of psychosis, made clinicians somewhat complacent about his threats and that more drastic action was finally required by him,” the authors said.

”It may be that the act of actually cutting off his finger (and eating its flesh) made staff take him more seriously and provide the care and understanding that he longed for.”



The other seven cases of self-cannibalization that the study identified –

  • 3 cases showed severe psychosis
  • 1 involved someone who was not psychotic but whose lifestyle involved ”extensive body modifications and scarification”.
  • 1 was dismissed as not true self-cannibalism as the patient did not eat the flesh
  • 2 were Greek cases from 1950