Lycanthropy Is Much More Than Howling At The Moon

We know the word werewolf, but the technical term is lycanthrope, and the accurate clinical term is lycanthropy. But what does that mean?

What Is Lycanthropy, And Where Did It Come From

The delusion that someone must metamorphose into an animal or be one is a psychiatric syndrome. The scientific community calls it Clinical Lycanthropy

The term itself leads to the affliction of physically morphing into a wolf. Of course, it is impossible and linked to the paranormal phenomenon that is a werewolf. However, it is, to this day, still a disorder despite its rarity. 


Lycanthropy translates from Greek to ‘wolf man’ and therefore is unique to people having a specific mental disorder. The only morphing experience for patients is that of changing into a wolf. Clinical lycanthropy categorises itself in the delusion spectrum.

Usually, the patient unconsciously chooses its region’s alpha when morphing into an animal. So, this mental disorder tends to change name depending on the country or continent where it manifests itself. 

TRIGGERS: Mental Distress | Suicide | Schizophrenia | Body Dysmorphia | Trauma | Medication | Brain Damage | Abuse | Mature Audience.

Lycanthropy Through Time And Origins

In North America and Europe, wolves are prominent and widely spread. While bears outgrow a wolf, they rarely venture into a settlement or around farming lands. Wolves were the reason for livestock dying and not fearing humans as much.

Lycanthropy is a psychiatric disorder that takes root in the belief in spirit animals when we look at its origin. Lycanthropy is not rare in folklore around the world. 

Austria - Moosham Castle
Austria – Moosham Castle

Like vampires, werewolves have been part of human history since the beginning. It dates back to antiquity and is found in Ancient Greece mythology. Arcadia had a wolf plague, and from that, a cult rose named Wolf-Zeus.

What Are The Symptoms Of Clinical Lycanthropy

The patients’ suffering is real to them, and they believe they either are transforming or are a wolf. They lose sight of how their bodies look, and their grip on reality is fragile at best. 

The mental disorder is under the psychosis spectrum. This means that clinical lycanthropy is a mental state archetypally relating to delusions and hallucinations.

Needless to say, the said wolf transformation only occurs in the patient’s mind. Never underestimate the pain and terror the affected person goes through. 

But Clinical Lycanthropy Doesn’t Stop There

Those symptoms are alarming and disturbing, but it is easy to brush it all off as an observer. However, for the patients, the transformation is real, and if they are already in ‘wolf’ form, the vision they have of themselves is real.


The patients don’t see a human form anymore. But what they feel and see to them is real. The brain switched the image, like body dysmorphia, to something that isn’t real. 

Their behaviour adapts to their vision of themselves and can lead to further dissociation from reality. If untreated, the affected people can lose all track of their human nature and revert to feral behaviour, like a wolf person.

What Study Does Clinical Lycanthropy Have?

The McLean Hospital studied clinical lycanthropy and its effect on those affected by this specific form of psychosis. A high number of cases helped build documentation on how to detect the symptoms of the mental disorder.

The criteria linking to the clinical lycanthropy diagnosis have recognition of how patients respond to specific interactions. The first symptom is a change in routine or way of thinking. 

Horror Hospital
Horror Hospital

Any psychosis in development starts small, but the pace at which it develops, once sparked, varies from individual to individual. 

YOU MATTER: As someone who lives with body dysmorphia disorder since I was four years old, I believe it important to say, regardless of this being an article about clinical lycanthropy, that body dysmorphia of any kind has high rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts. Believe me, I KNOW. But you matter and you are not alone. Please, reach out to your local hotline if thoughts are crossing your mind or to your doctor for help. You are never alone, and you matter to me and the world.

How To Recognise Clinical Lycanthropy Behaviour

It is worth noting that someone suffers from clinical lycanthropy if one believes. It is best to contact a mental institution or physician. Professionals are always best for the safety of the patient and the surrounding people.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

In a perfect world, it would be best to refer the person to a medical facility that one trusts. If one has the time, it is best to research reviews left by the public on the chosen mental facility. Sadly, mental clinics don’t have the best reputation, but private institutions or psychiatry can be a good choice. 

Behaviour 1: A patient has a moment of lucidity, allowing them to express they feel as if they were a wolf or they are turning into one.
Behaviour 2: A patient mimics a feral temperament closer to one of a canine. It could be as simple as uncontrollable howling, growling, or crawling.

What Is The Evidence Of Clinical Lycanthropy?

Following the two behavioural criteria usually directly points to clinical lycanthropy. Those specific actions on the patient’s part demonstrate psychosis leading to dysmorphia, a form of hallucination and delusion. Patients cannot trust their eyes or brain to tell who and what they are and therefore need psychological help.

Despite clinical lycanthropy showing clear signs of psychosis, there is no definitive diagnosis for their mental and neurological illnesses. 

Social Media Era
Social Media Era

There needs to be more than the direct association of behavioural consequences to the criteria demonstrating the patient’s belief in their wolf status. This reinforces my statement about carefully choosing the people caring for the patient.

More About The Evidence Of Clinical Lycanthropy

While werewolves are part of our humankind’s folklore throughout the globe and have been for millennia, somehow, people are oblivious to the disorder. Because most people brush the idea of a werewolf as a fictional monster, they do not stop to question its origin because society dictates its entertainment. 

Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf

Society, magazines, and television dictate what is ‘normal’ and what ‘isn’t.’ Mental disorders are still taboo and have a stigma in society. Those suffering from mental illnesses tend to keep quiet. 

Sadly, this includes clinical lycanthropy, which needs further studies and exploration but can’t have funds to pursue the necessary analyses. This results in rising numbers of people suffering from clinical lycanthropy and not receiving proper treatment.

The Number Of Clinical Lycanthropy Rising

In early 2004 alone, a list of over thirty publications on cases of clinical lycanthropy came out. This means that at least thirty people suffered, believing they were wolves or morphing into one. 

Someone brought the patient to a clinic or psychiatrist disconnected from reality. Most likely, the person was alone and afraid and had brief moments of lucidity. Someone who helped them found them most likely lucid enough to seek help.

Pennhurst Hospital - USA, Pennsylvania - Spring City
Pennhurst Hospital – USA, Pennsylvania – Spring City

One patient described their transformation. They would experience their body parts and insides altering from humans to wolves. The patient recalled their body slowly reshaping itself to fit the physiology of a canine before returning to its human form, helped by treatment. 

Because of the condition’s rarity, clinical lycanthropy falls under the idiosyncratic expression of a psychotic episode. This means that clinical lycanthropy might only express schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or clinical depression. It can also result from cerebrovascular disease, traumatic brain injury, dementia, delirium, and seizures.

What Does Clinical Lycanthropy Mean For The Brain?

The part of the brain in charge of proprioception and body image suffered alteration. That factor alone indicates a mental disorder. Whether it is body dysmorphia or delusion, it can also be clinical lycanthropy.

It can be visible if the patient goes under a neuroimaging study. Two patients diagnosed with clinical lycanthropy underwent neuroimaging, and their brains presented uncommon stimulation. 

Brain — X-Ray
Brain — X-Ray

It proved to the extent that people perceiving the change in their body shape can see it and feel it happening. They genuinely imagine the pain they would go under and feel the terror.

If There Is No Study, What Happens To Patients?

Sadly, because clinical lycanthropy isn’t under study, doctors follow the traditional route for psychotic disorders. Patients receive prescriptions for antipsychotic medication, and it is an effective treatment. 

Another way of treating the clinical lycanthropy disorder is with antidepressants or mood stabilisers. This treatment occurs when the doctor in charge of the patient links clinical disorder with depression or bipolar disorder. 

Mental Disorder — Pills
Mental Disorder — Pills

What is important to remember is the medication listed here so that if you ever encounter someone with clinical lycanthropy or yourself feel the symptoms, awareness is vital.

YOU MATTER: Do not be afraid of those medications because I personally know how scary they can be. It does change lives and the neurological response. The key is to find a doctor you trust and who listens. Even pharmacists are of greater help than one might think. I know because I have a good one.

The Misidentification Of Clinical Lycanthropy Disorder

It might be obvious to some of us that clinical lycanthropy is a form of delusional misidentification syndrome of oneself. Because of the lack of research, the disorder can often overlap with many other delusional misidentifications

Supporting the claim is one case where a patient under study received the diagnosis of both clinical lycanthropy and Cotard Syndrome

Cotard Syndrome is a psychiatric condition I wish to support and raise awareness for because I lived with it nearly a decade ago. It is a syndrome, so there is no brushing it off for good. It can come once and vanish forever or lurk in the back of your thoughts and come back. 

What Can Be Said About Cotard Syndrome

This Cotard Syndrome revolves around patients believing themselves to be either dead or simultaneously walking the line between dead and alive. It is terrifying and tricks your mind into not seeing your own reflection in a mirror and not needing to feed yourself. 


There is another rarity to the clinical lycanthropy that works as a mirror. In this case, the patient remains human while everyone around them is either morphing into wolves or has already turned into werewolves. The correct term is intermetamorphosis and lycanthropy spectrum.

It is important to note that certain drugs, such as ecstasy, can cause intermetamorphosis syndrome. 

What To Do With Clinical Lycanthropy Information

Raising mental disorder awareness is a good thing and needs spreading. So many mental disorders deserve attention, and nobody has ever heard of them. 

It is hard to believe you are the only one feeling a certain way when so many others are going through the same crisis. Who knows where this feeling can lead if no one talks about it?

Wild Gray Wolf
Wild Gray Wolf

Clinical lycanthropy is not something to laugh at but a severe condition that needs addressing. Believing oneself to morph into a canine along with pain and terror is no laughing matter. 

Trauma is often the common denominator in mental disorders, even with genetics. Something has to spark the gene. But if nobody reports or studies clinical lycanthropy, many people will suffer in silence, and nobody will be the wiser.

Breaking Society’s Mould Of What Is Normal

Many illnesses originate from the Middle Ages and Antiquity within folklore. Many are also directly attached to monsters. I share information on rare mental disorders linked to the gothic spectrum. 

We need to break that monster image our ancestors created. We need to learn, grow, and help those in need. 

Medieval Dungeon - Torture
Medieval Dungeon – Torture

If we all do our part and show compassion and understanding toward mental disorders and raise awareness, the stigma will end. If we don’t act upon it, those who suffer from rare disorders such as clinical lycanthropy, the illness will remain strong and keep spreading. 

We don’t want another Age of Witch Hunt or Werewolf Hunt, now do we? So, spread the word about clinical lycanthropy and come back for more on rare Gothic disorders.

The OCD Vampire

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