Can you eat yourself?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat yourself?” and discuss what is autocannibalism?

Can you eat yourself?

Yes, you can eat yourself. Self-eating, also known as autocannibalism or autosarcophagy, is a kind of cannibalism. Autophagy is a word that refers to the cell’s natural process of self-degradation, but it’s used in a somewhat different context. 

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and research findings, deliberate self-harm is a core symptom of borderline personality disorder and occurs within the course of other psychiatric disorders. It may be fatal, representing 1.9% of the violence-related death toll in the eastern Mediterranean region (6).

Catabolism, or the body going into starvation mode and consuming muscle and fat, is more effective than chopping off a piece of your body, eating it, and digesting it. When you are fasting or are otherwise deprived of food, your body starts to break down stored nutrients to keep essential processes and organs (such as your brain) supplied with fuel. Similarly, when a cell is deprived of nutrients it will degrade some of its own constituents to stay alive. It does this by the process of autophagy — literally, ‘self-eating’ (1).

If you claim to have the ability to regenerate missing body parts, you will never get larger or remain the same size. Physicists and biologists can easily understand this. A developing body that consumes X grams of food might theoretically grow X grams of tissue since digestion and metabolism need energy. 

Eating requires energy for the ingestion and digestion of food, and for the absorption, transport, interconversion, oxidation and deposition of nutrients. These metabolic processes increase heat production and oxygen consumption, and are known by terms such as dietary-induced thermogenesis, specific dynamic action of food and thermic effect of feeding. The metabolic response to food increases total energy expenditure by about 10 percent of the energy requirements over a 24-hour period in individuals eating a mixed diet (2).

The quantity of body mass that is emitted into the atmosphere is little, thus it may be disregarded. Undigested food and germs in feces, as well as external losses such as peeling skin, falling hair, proteins in urine and saliva, etc., contribute to the loss of mass. Our exhalation of CO2 contains Carbon atoms, which originate from the breakdown of food. However, this energy requirement, when there is no growth of tissues, is negligible. 

What is self-cannibalism?

Cannibalism is a behavior that includes consuming one’s own flesh. Autocannibalism is also known as self-cannibalism or autosarcophagy. This is a rare condition and only few cases are reported in the medical literature, related to mental disorders, such as Schizophrenia and retardation (3,4).  

The majority of them do not go to extremes.

. When it comes to eating, though, the most prevalent methods include:

  • Scabs
  • nails
  • skin 
  • hair 
  • boogers

Repetitive actions involving the body are common.

Body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as autocannibalism, include a wide range of practices (BFRBs). BFRBs are more serious than a simple habit like chewing one’s nails while frightened. BFRBs are self-grooming habits that might be harmful to the body because of repetition.

Pathogenic hair pulling (HP), skin picking (SP), and nail biting (NB) have been defined as repetitive, intentionally performed behaviors that cause noticeable hair loss or substantial physical damage and result in clinically significant distress or functional impairment and have also been conceptualized as part of the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, which is defined as a group of disorders sharing features with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) including phenomenology, clinical course, co-morbidity and family history (5). 

Anxiety and despair may play a role in certain cases.

Autocannibalism and BFRBs are serious mental health issues that are often accompanied by other mental health issues including sadness, depression or anxiety. Other impulse-control disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or pica, may also be present.

Autocannibalism can be classified in several ways, right?

Whole body parts are the most severe type of autocannibalism. There is, however, very little study on this sort of autocannibalism since it is so uncommon. Autocannibalism can also be characterized by the following conditions:

  • An eating disorder called allotriophagia, or “pica,” occurs when a person consumes food that has no nutritional benefit. Non-food products such as ice and paint chips might be included in this category. Ingestion of materials other than normal food varies from licking to actual eating and drinking, and it is due in most cases to dietary deficiency, either of bulk or of individual nutrients such as cobalt, phosphorus, etc (7).
  • The condition known as onychophagia is characterized by an insatiable desire to nibble on one’s nails. Nail biting, on the other hand, is a dangerous behavior that may lead to severe fingernail damage. The need to bite and even to eat fingernails is linked to a psychoemotional state of anxiety (8).
  • Eating the skin from the fingers or hands is known as dermatophagia. Unlike picking at a hangnail, this is a more dangerous problem that may develop into swollen and bleeding skin (6).
  • In the case of trichochophagia (also known as the “Rapunzel syndrome”), people are impelled to consume their own hair. Blockages and infections may occur in the digestive system as a result of hair not being digested. In this case, it is called thichobezoar (9).
  • The scarring, infections, and even death that may result from untreated autocannibalism can occur if left untreated.

Does autocannibalism have an underlying cause?

Autocannibalism may have underlying factors that are similar to those that induce BFRBs, despite the lack of study into this. Included are:

  • Genetics. A genetic component has been linked to the formation of BFRBs, according to recent studies. It’s possible that if you have a family member with a BFRB, you’re more likely to get one as well (10).
  • Age. The onset of autocannibalism is more likely to occur in infancy than in any other age group. For example, a disorder known as Lesch-Nyhan syndrome (LNS), which is characterized by autocannibalism, is described in a case study (4).
  • Emotions. BFRBs are hypothesized to be triggered by a wide range of emotions. BFRBs were triggered in a small experimental group by boredom, annoyance, and impatience, according to researchers.
  • Mental health issues. Few investigations have been done on the condition. For instance, a 29-year-old with a history of psychosis and drug abuse was found to be an autocannibal (3).

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In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat yourself?” and we discussed what is autocannibalism?


  1. Klionsky, Daniel J. Regulated self-cannibalism. Nature, 2004, 431, 31-32.
  2. Human energy requirements. FAO.  
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  4. Verma, Rohit, Shaily Mina, and Ankur Sachdeva. Auto cannibalism in mental retardation. J pediatr neurosci, 2014, 9, 60.
  5. BOHNE, ANTJE, NANCY KEUTHEN, and SABINE WILHELM. Pathologic Hairpulling, Skin Picking, and Nail Biting. Annal Clin Psych, 2005, 17, 227-232.
  6. Sharquie, Khalifa Ebeid, and Maha Sulaiman Younis. Dermatophagia: A case series from a dermatology clinic. Our Dermatol Online, 2022, 13.
  7. Muhammad, S. T., et al. Diagnosis and management of sand impaction of the large intestine in an Alsatian puppy. Sokoto J Veter Sci, 2014, 12, 57-60.  
  8. Tanaka, Orlando Motohiro, et al. Nailbiting, or onychophagia: a special habit. Am J Orthod Dentof Orthop, 2008, 134, 305-308.
  9. Grant, Jon E., and Brian L. Odlaug. Clinical Characteristics of Trichotillomania with Trichophagia. Comprehen psych, 2008, 49, 579.
  10. Stein, Dan J., et al. Trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder), skin picking disorder, and stereotypic movement disorder: Toward DSM‐V. Depress anxiety, 2010, 27, 611-626.