Abraham "Bram" Stoker (November 8, 1847 – April 20, 1912) was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as personal assistant of actor Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, which Irving owned.

Elizabeth Page Nelson: EXPLANATIONS FOR VAMPIRES AND WEREWOLVES: REAL, MEDICAL, OR MENTAL?


Elizabeth Page Nelson, A11, Psychology

Dressing up in costume is a means of escape from the reality of everyday life. By putting on a disguise, an individual is able, for a short period of time, to channel a different identity. Individuals are able to place their fears and insecurities aside and take on a new persona. Whether it is for a holiday, such as Halloween in the United States or Carnival in Europe, dressing up in costume for short bursts of time is popular in societies and cultures all over the world. However, sometimes, instead of dressing up as someone or something else for leisure, individuals assume another identity permanently, truly believing that they are “un-human.” Two of the most popular forms of this phenomenon are individuals who identify as vampires and those who believe they are werewolves. Although it may seem as if vampires and werewolves exist in two distinct and separate realms, these supernatural creatures share some of the same historical background. Delving into the history of the two creatures, it is easy to see how they have come to have so many similarities. These individuals truly believe that they were born with superhuman powers and have abilities beyond those of “normal” human beings. Self-identified, “sanguinarian” vampires state that they have an innate need to feed off of the blood of other living things in order to survive. Werewolves state that they have the ability to transform from human to wolf form. Although the individuals who claim to be vampires and werewolves do not believe that they suffer from any medical or psychiatric illnesses, some doctors believe that there is a specific condition that exists for self-identified vampires called “clinical vampirism” or “renfield’s syndrome,” and condition named “lycanthropy” to describe the symptoms of

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self-identified werewolves. However, although these disorders have not been officially recognized by the DSM, it has been found that both of these conditions have roots and explanations within the medical disorder, porphyria, and the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia.
The origins of vampires are extremely ambiguous and difficult to track. The idea of the vampire most likely came from early Eastern Europe and the Slavic culture (Laycock). Laycock states that vampire stories mostly comes from “Greece, Hungary, Turkey, and the Slavic countries” (1). There are many different interpretations for the existence of the vampire, including religious explanations, relating to idea of dualist cults (Perkowski), superstitions (Stetson), and misunderstandings of decomposition of the body (Dundes). However, the most prominent and sensible approaches are two different anthropological approaches which each serve to explain the emergence of the vampire. These approaches are the “primitive philosopher,” approach, which includes “explanations for natural phenomena,” and the “structural functionalist” approach, which includes “finding a scapegoat” (Lecture September 27, 2010). The “primitive philosopher” perspective is explained by the theorist Sir E.B. Tylor. Tylor believes that individuals blamed people to be vampires in order to provide explanations for happenings such as plagues, diseases, and natural disasters. Individuals needed supernatural explanations for natural phenomena that they did not understand. The “structural functionalist” position allowed individuals to prosecute people as vampires in order to justifying things that they were unable to intellectually comprehend. Individuals often used religion as a scapegoat for these explanations, especially when scientific explanations for certain things did not exist yet.
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The emergence of the werewolf is as equally ambiguous as the vampire. Werewolves were extremely popular mythological creatures in ancient Greece and Rome and often appeared as characters in their myths and other stories. Ancient Greek physicians “believed that certain people could transform themselves into various animal forms,” and the populous generally believed that their various gods could change into animal forms (Oxlade 7). By the time of the Middle Ages, werewolves were popular characters in narratives (7). Their popularity was also prominent due to the fact that real wolves “were much more common than they are today” (7). Many of the deaths during this time were actually due to wolves mauling people. However, “villagers often blamed other people for these deaths, claiming that the murderers had turned into wolves to do the deeds” (Senn 7). It has been found that across Indo-European societies, there is an abundant amount of tribal names that translate to “wolf-men” in “Italy, Greece, the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor” which suggests that these cultures “shared a common system of beliefs and rituals pertaining to wolves” (17). Throughout time and across cultures, cultures have published stories which “recount encounters with humans who have taken a wolf form, or who claim to have that power” (11).
Although vampires and werewolves claim to have different superhuman abilities, their historical roots are surprisingly similar. It is true that both of these creatures “bear the mark of the other world” (10). Werewolves and vampires “have been linked historically in less-developed and developed societies alike” (10). In Romania, “the same set of circumstances are thought to create them” (10). Romanians believe that individuals become vampires and werewolves due to things such as “abnormalities” and “failure to...successfully socialize the infant,” (10). In other countries, such as “Southern Russia,
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Turkey, and Greece,” the werewolf eventually “became associated with the undead vampire feeding on the living” (19). Perkowski states that as early as the XIIIth century, the word vuklodluk appeared in a Serbian manuscript meaning “vampire/werewolf” (Perkowski 18). In 1869, a man named A. N. Afanas’ev wrote Poetic Views of the Slavs Regarding Nature in which he stated that “Slavic vampire beliefs” included “corpses who during their lifetime had been sorcerers, werewolves and, in general, people excommunicated by the church” (19). These examples prove that throughout time, in many different societies, vampires and werewolves were considered to fall under the same categories. Some cultures, such as the Slavs, believed that vampires were individuals who had werewolf abilities during their lifetime, while other cultures simply fused the two identities together.
Self-identified vampires exist in a variety of forms. First, there is a distinction between “lifestyle” and “real” vampires. “Lifestyle” vampires view the vampire lifestyle as a “set of personal choices” and have the belief that they chose the vampire identity (Laycock 6). They do not believe that they have to consume blood in order to “maintain their well-being” (6). On the other hand, “real” vampires believe they have a “need to feed...in order to maintain their physical, mental, and spiritual well-being” (7). “Real” vampires also state that they have “paranormal abilities” (7). “Real” vampires are either characterized by being “sanguinarian,” or those who “ingest small amounts of blood,” “psychic,” or those who “draw subtle energy out of other people,” or “hybrid,” who utilize both techniques (7). “Sanguinarian” vampires are those studied most by doctors and psychiatrists because their feeding technique is something that is both tangible and provable. These vampires often follow the “awakened” model of vampirism, which claims that it is an “essentialist identity” (18).
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The medical disorder porphyria has served as a medical explanation for both vampirism and lycanthropy. This symptoms of this disease include skin and teeth discoloration, and blisters when the victim is in the sunlight (Otten 14). In 1985, David Dolphin, Ph.D., stated that individuals who are “blood-drinking vampires” had the disease “porphyria” (Dresser 171). He stated that this disease causes individuals to have extremely “taut” lips and gums, making the “teeth [appear] to be much more prominent” (172). This provides an explanation as to why people who believe they are vampires appear to have fang-like teeth. Porphyria as an explanation for werewolves has also appeared in medical literature. Fahy states that “the strange appearance and behavior of sufferers of severe porphyria may have led them to be accused of werewolves during the Middle Ages” (Fahy 37). Sufferers of porphyria often have “neurological or psychiatric sequelae” which can explain the “bizarre behavior” of these individuals (38). Therefore, victims of porphyria are more susceptible to psychiatric disorders, which provide a basis for explanations of vampire and werewolf delusions.
A few doctors believe that there is a specific condition that individuals who label themselves as “real” vampires suffer from named “Clinical Vampirism,” which is also known as “Rensfield’s Disorder.” Gubb, Segal, Khota, and Dicks describe clinical vampirism as “a belief in bloodsucking ghosts or performing the actions of a vampire with the sense of drawing blood from an object with accompanying sexual pleasure” (Gubb, Segal, Khota and Dicks 163). However, clinical vampirism only refers to sanguinarian vampires and not to psychic vampires. This is because, “from a psychodynamic perspective” vampirism is considered an “aggressive sexual act, with a libidinal component” (163). Clinical vampirism defines vampirism as an act that involves the vampire receiving pleasure from “drawing
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blood from an object,” therefore ruling out psychic forms of vampirism (163). The vampire feels an innate “compulsion to consume blood” (Wisegeek). The syndrome is described as having three stages. The first stage is called “autovampirism” and is characterized by “the sufferer [drinking] his own blood” (Wisegeek). The second stage is named “zoophagia” which consists of “eating live animals or drinking their blood,” and the third stage is named “true vampirism” during which the vampire solely focuses on the blood of other humans (Wisegeek). Clinical Vampirism is not listed in the current DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). For now, the disorder is considered a possible symptom of schizophrenia.
Similar to the concept of “real” vampires, some individuals are under the impression that they are “real” werewolves, and thus have the ability to transform from human to wolf form. However, unlike most “real” vampires, the majority of people who consider themselves to have this condition have more prominent and severe psychological issues. Most of them undergo “rigorous clinical analysis and treatment” (Otten 3). For example Charlotte F. Otten describes a female patient who stated she was a werewolf, but who ended up being treated for “chronic pseudo-neurotic schizophrenia” because her doctors believed she was suffering from a “pathological metamorphosis into a werewolf” (3). It is much harder to diagnose “werewolves” than vampires because the only ones who actually witness the “transformation” into animal form are the victims themselves. As in the case with psychic vampires, there is no tangible proof of their disease besides their behavioral symptoms. Therefore, it is easier to diagnose these individuals as having psychiatric disorders than it is for self-identified vampires.
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Lycanthropy is a condition under which individuals believe they have the ability to transform from human to animal form. Human transformation into werewolves is the most popular form of lycanthropy. Doctors refer to these individuals as “lycanthropes” and state that “in delusional states, humans (of both sexes) perceive themselves as werewolves” (3). Gradually, the words “lycanthrope” and “werewolf” began to embody different meanings. “Werewolf” refers to a “non-medical term for a fantasy or criminal state,” while “lycanthrope” is a “professional term of a pathological condition” (3). The idea of lycanthropy as an explanation for werewolves did not appear for five centuries after the first English use of the word “werewolf” (5). In 1584, the words “lycanthrophia” and “lycanthropus” appeared in The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot. In this book, lycanthropy was considered a disease. The first English study on lycanthropy was done in 1865 by a man named Sabine Baring-Gould. Baring-Gould wrote a book that “[focused] on the varieties of lycanthropic [experiences]” of werewolves (xiv). Lycanthropy continues to affect individuals in modern society. Charlotte F. Otten describes patients treated in the late 1970s who believed that they had the ability to transform into werewolves. The psychiatrists working on these cases found that since “the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and into the twentieth century” patients who have made this claim have all portrayed similar symptoms including “altered states of consciousness” “alienation from themselves and from human society,” “acute physiological stress and anxiety” and “bestial compulsions” (21). This portrays the idea that there must be a underlying psychiatric and medical cause for these individuals. Similar to clinical vampirism, lycanthropy is also not recognized in the current DSM-IV. Like individuals who believe they are vampires, doctors diagnose people with lycanthropic symptoms as having schizophrenia.
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The DSM-IV classifies schizophrenia as an “Axis 1” disorder. It lists symptoms of schizophrenia as “oral sadistic regressions, depersonalization, confused sexuality, multiple concurrent delusions, and thought-form and content disorders” (Gubb, Segal, Khota and Dicks 164). These are all symptoms present in both self-identified vampires and werewolves. In the case of vampires, Gubb, Segal, Khota and Dicks hypothesize that the connection between schizophrenics and the desire to ingest blood is that because these individuals lack a “stable sense of self” they “succumb to extremely concrete forms of testing their...existence,” by, for example, “[extracting] their own blood to prove that they actually exist” (Gubb, Segal, Khota and Dicks 163). Kayton states that schizophrenics and those who identify as vampires both exhibit “fears of being enclosed, periods of semi-starvation, reversal of day-night cycle, and a preoccupation with or dread of mirrors” (Kayton 304). Miles E. Drake states that lycanthropes “[suffer] from schizophrenia” (Drake 5). This is displayed in their “alternations in consciousness, depersonalization, acute anxiety and agitation, and compulsive behavior” (5). Lycanthropy is now thought of as a “symptom” of schizophrenia (Fahy).
Both vampires and werewolves channel their “power” from the use of their sharp teeth. In 1960, Karl Abraham hypothesized that both vampires and werewolves suffered from a disruption in the “oral phase” of development. He states that “inadequate resolution” of the oral sucking and biting stages “predisposes to schizophrenic and paranoid conditions” (Kayton 309). Individuals who end up developing the schizophrenic condition are prone to develop the want to “[partake] life by the oral route using a sadistic attack by teeth” (310). The reversal of day-night cycle is a prominent symptoms in schizophrenics. Both vampires and werewolves tend to exhibit the behavior of sleeping
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during the day and “emerging” into the world during the night. An explanation for why individuals develop these symptoms is the concept that they have been “deprived of ‘good-enough-mothering’” (312). This causes the “regressed portion” of the ego to be “split off from the ego which transact with reality,” causing schizophrenic individuals to feel as if they do not exist “completely in the real world” (312). This could also relate to why many vampires and werewolves state that they are unable to see themselves in mirrors, because schizophrenics often state they feel “invisible’ (312).
On Axis II of the DSM-IV, the conditions “hysteria,” “severe psychopathic disorder,” and “mental retardation” can also serve to explain the behavior of vampires and werewolves. These conditions are marked by symptoms such as “disturbed attachment in...early childhood” which result in problems with “empathy,” “boundaries,” and “low self-esteem” (Gubb, Segal, Khota and Dicks 165). These three symptoms are almost always present in those who ingest blood and those who believe they transform into wolf form. However, schizophrenia is a more much plausible psychiatric explanation for self-identified vampires and werewolves because, for the most part, these individuals are functional in their societies, unlike individuals who suffer from Axis II conditions.
In conclusion, although vampires and werewolves have claimed to have different powers, abilities, and ways of life over thousands of years, these two creatures are strikingly similar. Both the vampire and the werewolf have ambiguous sources which date back to ancient time, with both most likely originating in Eastern Europe. Throughout history, they have been linked and placed into the same breeds of superhuman creatures. Self-identified, sanguinarian vampires and self-identified werewolves have bot led doctors to hypothesize the existence of specific mental disorders tailored to each type of individual,
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clinical vampirism and lycanthropy. The medical disease, porphyria, is a possible explanation for the strange appearance of self-identified vampires and werewolves. However, the majority of psychiatrists believe that vampirism and the belief that one is a werewolf are symptoms of schizophrenia. Thus, it is safe to say that these individuals who identify as vampires and werewolves most likely were not innately born with these qualities and “powers,” and instead suffer from a combination of internal medical and psychiatric disorders which have been exacerbated by external forces such as childhood experiences.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY
Drake, Miles E. “Medical and neuropsychiatric aspects of lycanthropy.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 13.1 (1992): 5-15. Print.
Dresser, Norine. American Vampires: Fans, Victims, Practitioners
. New York: Random House, Inc., 1989.
Dundes, Alan. The Vampire: A Casebook.
Madison: The University of Wisconsin11 Press, 1998.
Fahy, T.A. “Lycanthropy: A Review.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 82. (1989): 37-39. Print.
Gubb, K., J. Segal, A. Khota, and A. Dicks. “Clinical Vampirism: a review and illustrative case report.” S Afr Psychiatry Rev. 9. (2006): 163-168. Print.
Kayton, Lawrence. “The Relationship of Vampire Legend to Schizophrenia.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence. 1.4 (1972): Print.
Laycock, Joseph. Vampires Today: The Truth about Modern Vampirism.
Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2009.
Otten, Charlotte. Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture.
Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986.
Oxlade, Chris. The Mystery of Vampires and Werewolves
. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2002.
Perkowski, Jan L. The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism.
Columbus: Slavica Publishers, Inc., 1989.
Senn, Harry A. Were-Wolf and Vampire in Romania
. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
Stetson, George R. “The Animistic Vampire in New England.” American Anthropologist. 9.1 (1986): 1-13. Print.
Wisegeek. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-renfields-syndrome.htm

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