Clinical Lycanthropy

Clinical Lycanthropy is a mental illness (specifically, a psychiatric syndrome) that involves a strong delusional belief in the afflicted person that they have transformed into an animal, often a wolf. The syndrome is diagnosed by either a lucid patient indicating that he or she has at one time transformed into an animal, or by observing certain animal behaviors in the patient that would indicate a belief that he or she is currently transformed into some animal. The belief is caused by a form of psychosis or dementia, and causes the person to whole-heartedly believe that they have become a certain animal.

The only observable change will be in their behavior – they will indeed act like whatever animal they believe to have been turned into. Clinical Lycanthropy differs from the mythology of werewolves in that the afflicted person does not actually appear to have transformed into anything physically. They may only act differently, expressing animal behaviors such as how an animal moves or makes noise. The syndrome is so rare that very few modern examples are available for study (under 40 cases in record), and so the causes of the condition are not very well understood at this point in time.

The term lycanthropy is derived from Greek mythology and the story of King Lycaon, who supposedly fed human flesh to the god Zeus and was then punished by being turned into a wolf. Werewolf myths have persisted through our history, probably in most part due to cases of lycanthropy. On the other hand, there may also be a cultural basis for the wolf being the most frequent form of animal delusion. It appears that lycanthropy feeds the werewolf myth while the werewolf myth has a hand in determining exactly what animal form a person’s delusion will end up taking.


    1. The word lycanthrope is the latinized version of the Greek word lukanthropos, which means werewolf. Combining the words lukos, meaning “wolf”, and anthropos, meaning “man.”

      Lycan is just the shortened version of lycanthrope and like most words it originated from latin/greek words. You will find many similar words in werewolf stories.

    1. No, Lycanthrope can be translated as Lycan=wolf and Thrope=Man. Werewolf means Were, or man, and wulf, obviously wolf. so you get a Lycanthrope Manwolf and the Werewolf Wolfman.

  1. This is true lycanthropy does mean werewolf. OU will find it in stories about werewolves because they foten mention it.

  2. I’m writing my psychology paper on clinical lycanthropy and I’m having trouble finding good reliable sources to use does anyone know where i can find any?

  3. I am a schizophrenic, and I exhibit lycanthropy. Bipolarity and schizophrenia both have psychosis as a symptom, and in my case it has manifested itself in this manner. When I suffer a schizophrenic episode my mind becomes dysfunctional, senses sharpen, higher brain functions such as speech are degraded (if not shut down) and an animalistic mental core is predominant. Memories of these times are fuzzy and incomplete. I can pass among humans during an episode but I must remain silent since I can’t speak well. Something still comes across in my gait, however, as others have stated I have a menacing walk and stance during these times. Although I am on antipsychotic medication and recognize my delusion as such, it is still insidiously difficult to combat in my thinking and especially so during an episode with degraded cognitive functions. I think there are more of us out there, we just don’t talk about it because everyone fears the wolf at their door.

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