Clinical Lycanthropy
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Basic Information

Clinical lycanthropy is a mental disorder in which the sufferer believes that he is a werewolf and behaves accordingly. Generally the sufferer will fear the transformation, and consider it imminent rather than actually occurring but, given the typical behaviour of werewolves, it is not unreasonable for a hypothetical sufferer to turn to murder and cannibalism if left untreated.

How any given "werewolf" behaves will probably depend a lot on their cultural experience and what they think a werewolf should do and not do.

Although wolf transformation is the most common delusion, other animals may be cited instead and there is some pressure amongst professionals to create a general diagnosis of zoanthropy or therianthopy for all transformative delusions.

This is thought to be part of the schizophrenic group of disorders and is thankfully very rare.

The historical ulfhednar and berserker cults - and similar things - may also have had similar notions, albeit on a more voluntary basis.


See Also

Lycanthropy - the non-clinical version, when the patient really can turn into a wolf.
Otherkin - who think they are other kinds of mythical creatures
Wendigo Syndrome - a similar disorder, most common amongst the Amerindian cultures of the American North West.

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • An obvious disorder for a serial killer to possess - although probably a disorganised serial killer who is relatively easily caught.
    • Although a sufferer is probably at least as likely to self harm as part of the delusion than to harm anyone else.
  • Conversely, if someone really does suffer from lycanthropy, they may be misdiagnosed as mentally ill and experience their first change inside a secure mental health unit. Which is probably not that secure…
  • This might be a form of imitative insanity resulting from contact with genuine werewolves - much as many victims end up imitating their abusers, so someone whose sanity fails them at the sight of a werewolf may become convinced that they too are a werewolf. Especially if they believe in transmissible lycanthropy and are injured in the attack.
    • And feel free to consider equivalent disorders for other supernatural monsters known to be contagious - like vampires, ghouls and zombies. Even if they aren't actually contagious in your campaign.
  • Some cases seem to have been triggered by a dog bite - consider this if one of your PCs acquires a mental health problem in appropriate circumstances.
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