One theory is that pretenders may be the "missing link" between devotees and wannabes, demonstrating an assumed continuum between those merely attracted to people with disabilities and those who actively wish to become disabled. Many wannabes use pretending as a way to appease the intense emotional pain related to having body integrity identity disorder.
Pretending takes a variety of forms. Some chatroom users on internet sites catering to devotees have complained that chat counterparts they assumed were female were revealed as male devotees. This form of pretending (where a devotee derives pleasure by pretending to be a disabled woman) may indicate a very broad predisposition to pretending among devotees.
Pretending includes dressing and acting in ways typical of disabled people, including making use of aids (Walking sticks, crutches, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, white canes, etc. Pretending may also take the form of a devotee persuading his or her sexual partner to play the role of a disabled person. Pretending may be practiced in private, in intimacy, or in public, and may occupy surprisingly long periods. In the latter case, some pretenders hope that the disability may become permanent, such as through tissue necrosis caused by constricted blood supply.
- abasiophilia — the desire for people who limp and/or use leg braces, walking sticks, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs
- acrotomophilia — the desire for amputees
- apotemnophilia — sexual arousal based on the desire to be or appear as an amputee.
- attraction to disability — the broad range of sexualised fascinations projected onto disabled people
- disability devotee ("dev") — one who desires disabled partners
- medical fetishism — a sexualised interest in observing medical practice and receiving medical treatment
- Munchhausen's syndrome — a psychological disorder whose sufferers feign illness and/or self-harm
- Body integrity identity disorder ("transabled") — a disorder whose sufferers believe they should have an impairment. Sometimes seen as analogous to gender dysphoria
- Bruno, R. L., PhD, "Devotees, pretenders and wannabes: Two cases of Factitious Disability Disorder" The Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 1997, 15, pp. 243–260
- this portal to the pretender web lists 12 pretender and three pretender/wannabe websites