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Real-Life Werewolves? Psychiatrist Explains Rare Phenomenon Called Clinical Lycanthropy

Apr 17, 2014 08:17 AM EDT
(Photo : Youtube / HowStuffWorks) Dr. Jan Dirk Blom, an assistant professor at the University of Groningen, explains what causes people to think that they transform into wolves.

Dr. Jan Dirk Blom, an assistant professor at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, has taken on the task to study the bizarre and intriguing case of real-life werewolves.

In these rare cases, people believe they are physically and mentally undergoing the transformation of turning into a wolf, Live Science reported.

In his study, Blom discovered that since the 1850s, 56 cases have been reported of people believing they were turning into an animal. Thirteen of those were categorized under clinical lycanthropy, a medical term used to describe a condition where patients suffer delusions of metamorphosing into a wolf.

The other cases that Blom came across were about people believing they were turning into other types of animals such as a snake, dog or a frog.

In one of the cases Blom studied, a man in an asylum in France claimed that his body was covered in hair and had cloven feet. He even mutilated his lips using his fingers to expose his so-called wolf's teeth.

Blom said that the patient "only wanted to eat raw meat, but when it was given to him, he refused it because it was not rotten enough."

Due to the rare nature of clinical lycanthropy, insufficient attention has been given to it by medical professionals, Blom commented.

"In clinical practice, many cases are missed because mental health professionals are insufficiently aware of the existence and the uniqueness of this disorder," Blom said.

Initially, the condition was considered as an unusual attribute of other mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or depression.

But through his study, Blom discovered that clinical lycanthropy is caused by abnormalities in the regions in the brain responsible for giving people an idea of a sense of their selves and their overall body scheme.

"We know that neutral circuits in the brain - involving premotor and sensory cortical areas, and probably various subcortical areas as well - are essential to creating our body schema," Blom explained.

According to Blom, problems in these brain regions can mess with how people view their own body. These could cause them to think that their physical appearance is changing, which is very similar to the delusions experienced by people suffering from clinical lycanthropy.

FOLLOW: Werewolf, Psychiatry, Scientific Study, Clinical Lycanthropy

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