Case Report

 

 

 

 

LYCANTHROPY IN DEPRESSION: A CASE REPORT

 

Ali-Reza Moghaddas MD·*, Mitra Nasseri MD**

 

Authors affiliations: *School of Psychology, Allameh Tabatabaei University, **Department of Radiology, Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

·Corresponding author and reprints: Ali-Reza Moghaddas, MD, School of Psychology, Allame Tabatabaei University, Tehran, Iran. P.O. Box: 13185-611, Fax: +98-21-5415200,

E-mail: moghaddas@atu.ac.ir.

 

Lycanthropy, by definition, is a belief of delusion in which  patient considers himself or ors as a wolf or some or animals. Knowledge of lycanthropy dates back to about two thousand years ago, and several sources have made references to this phenomenon. A young and single male, stuttering since age 12, recently developed lycanthropic syndrome; he had symptoms of depression since adolescence. He was given psychiatric management and was treated with 12 mg of perphenazine per day as  antipsychotic drug and 20 mg of fluoxetine per day as  antidepressant. Within two years, symptoms of lycanthropy gradually disappeared and  patient recovered from depression to a large extent.

 

Archives of Iranian Medicine, Volume 7, Number 2, 2004: 130 – 132.

 


Keywords · delusional depression · lycanthropy ·  major depression · stuttering

 

Introduction

 

L

ycanthropy is defined as a certain delusion in which  patient supposes himself or ors to have turned into a wolf or some or animals. It is generally thought of as being a kind of delusion of metamorphosis.1 Nowadays, even rarer cases of lycanthropy are reported compared to  past.2  delusion is usually associated with a firm belief that it originates from  devil’s will or that  patient is possessed by  devil.3

People of different cultures believed long ago that  human being is able to turn himself into animals and that  animal-like humans really exist. Perhaps  first citation of lycanthropy has been made in  Bible, and reference has also been made to it in  book of Daniel.4

Lycanthropy has been discussed in several texts such as  writings of Paulus Aegineta,  Greek scholar of  7th century.5 In Greek mythology Zeus is said to have turned Lycaon into a werewolf.6

Moreover, in many myths re seems to be a connection between  full moon and  time of human transformation into wolves.5

 studies of Karl Jaspers, of  analysis of lycanthropy in 1959, established  basis for psychopathologic investigations into this syndrome.1 A number of psychoanalysts consider lycanthropy as being  instinctive representation of id toger with a splitting mechanism at  animal level for  elimination of a feeling of guilt.1 Some or authors believe it to be a kind of delusion.1

Karl G. Jung held that  sensitivity of children towards  conflicts of ir parents’ unconscious could cause this syndrome. 1

To some, lycanthropy is categorized first as being a delusion and n as a sort of  depersonalization.5 Certain specialists believe  intricate lycanthropic symptoms to be  beginning of  appearance of deranged sexual conflicts,7 and maintain that  internal fears of an individual surpasses his adjustment mechanisms; such fears will n emerge as lycanthropic symptoms that threaten or people.7  delusion of transformation into animals has been observed everywhere round  world, but mostly in nonindustrial societies.5  type of  animal  patient might turn into depends on a number of factors such as  abundance and fear of that animal.3

Hence, patients from different cultures mention various animals; for instance, in South-East Asia, tigers and crocodiles are more common and in Europe, wolf is  most-talked-about animal in this respect.5

It is worth noting that several lycanthropic patients are reported to have been bitten by a dog or a wolf or vaccinated against rabies.6 This in turn could suggest that lycanthropy might be  unusual and nonexclusive representation of rabies.8

Considering  legendary belief that perhaps re is a relation between  full moon and  appearance of animal-like humans, some studies have been carried out on  possible relation between  blood level of certain neurotransmitters and  time of  full moon.9

Noneless, lycanthropy is not by itself a distinct disease but rar represents a range of psychiatric diseases.1 Generally speaking,  period of development of lycanthropic symptoms varies for different patients, but in most cases se symptoms are temporary and transient. Reportedly,  longest period of its persistence in a patient has been over 15 years.10

 

Case Report

 

 patient was a 20-year-old male laborer from a low socioeconomic class with HX of stuttering since age 12.  He lived in a village Kazeroon suburbs, and was referred with complaint of a feeling of turning into a wolf for about two months. At  same time, he had felt possessing much more strength and power. Moving with tremor, he had had  tendency to attack ors and devour m.

Sometimes, he also felt like animals, walking on his four legs. Such delusions ordinarily surfaced in  mornings, at nights, and during times of loneliness and fear, and continued for one to three hours. Once it was over,  patient found himself confused, anxious, and frightened with some headache and a feeling of light-headedness.

Furrmore, he occasionally felt that  people around him had also transformed into wolves and leopards and were about to attack him. In such conditions,  patient escaped and held himself captive.

Likewise, re were transient auditory, tactile, and olfactory hallucinations such as hearing vague sounds, insects creeping on  body, and smelling unpleasant odors.

Hallucinations upon falling asleep and waking up (hypnogogic and hypnopompic) and such misinterpretations as having a vision of a ghost occurred in  same period.  patient had slight symptoms of depression since adolescence. With  emergence of  feeling of turning into a wolf, such symptoms had aggravated him for  past two months.  patient had a poor adjustment in school and in  society. He was born to a family of farmers and grew-up in a religious, harsh, and stern atmosphere.

 

Furr diagnostic studies

 results of  physical and neurological examinations showed no signs of epilepsy or drug dependency, and paraclinical tests including blood test, brain CT scan, MRI, EEG, and neuropsychological testing except IQ testing were all normal.  patient had scored a borderline grade on his IQ tests. After a number of interviews and completion of history provided by his relatives, and based on  criteria of diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM IV-TR, he was finally diagnosed as a definite case of delusional depression. Considering  good support provided by his family,  patient was treated on an out-patient basis. He was treated with 12 mg of perphenazine per day as  antipsychotic drug and 20 mg of fluoxetine per day as  antidepressant. During a two-year study, and despite  patient’s lack of compliance,  symptoms of lycanthropy and depression declined significantly.

 

Discussion

 

Lycanthropy is more prevalent in a nonindustrial and rural community,5 where  patient was born and was already living. Lycanthropy can not be considered as a diagnostically distinct disease; it is rar a set of symptoms that toger with ors result in various differential diagnoses.1

Considering  earlier symptoms of depression in  patient and  phenomenon of lycanthropy, which emerged later,  patient was diagnosed as delusional depression. Development of lycanthropy and transitory hallucinations in  patient, on  whole, put forward  diagnosis of delusional depression on  basis of which  proper treatment was given.  patient’s determination to seek treatment for about two years, his response to  treatment, lack of any observable decline in his social and cognitive skills, inconsistency of his hallucinations, as well as a relative improvement of his psychotic symptoms, fully support  primary diagnosis. Contrary to a number of similarly reported cases,  patient did not have any history of animal bites, vaccination against rabies,6 and a connection between  full moon and emergence of  symptoms of  disease.5  patient’s preoccupation with sexual matters, walking like  four-legged animals, and attacking ors were consistant with  earlier work.7

Feeling of inefficiency and shyness are quite common in such patients,6 as was  case in our patient; like  previously reported cases, symptoms of lycanthropy were transitory and ephemeral.

 previous reports do not refer to any link between  disease and stuttering. However, stuttering was  cause of stress in this case and played a significant role in  development of depression in  patient and his withdrawal from school.

According to Keck et al11 delusion may or may not be under  patient’s control. In this case,  patient proved to have  appropriate control over his delusions to a large extent. In some studies it has been argued that  lycanthropy syndrome could not affect  prognosis of  previously dominant disease11 as was  case in  present report.  symptoms of lycanthropy observably decreased within a two-year period, but signs of major depression, being  primary disease though less severe, still persist. Finally, Garlipp et al12 who reported three cases of lycanthropy are of  belief that studies on this phenomenon have been consigned to oblivion. y maintain that perhaps  phenomenon of lycanthropy is a pathognomonic symptom for a specific illness,
which requires furr psychopathological and psychiatric investigation.

 
Acknowledgment
 

I wish to express my gratitude to Hooyar Moghaddas.

 
References
 

1       Koehler K, Ebel H, Vartzopoulos D. Lycanthropy and demonomania: some psychopathological issues. Psychol Med. 1990; 20:  629 – 33.

2       Poorafkari N. Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychology and Psychiatry. Tehran: Farhang Moaser; 1997.

3       Moselhy HF. Lycanthropy: new evidence of its origins. Psychopathology. 1999; 32: 173 – 6.

4       Rosenstock AH, Vincent KRA case of lycanthropy. Am J Psychiatry. 1977; 134: 1174 – 9.

5       Coll PG, O’Sullivan GO, Brown PJ. Lycanthropy lives on. Br J Psychiatry. 1985; 147: 201– 2.

6       Raok K, Gangadhar BN, Janakiramiah N. Lycanthropy in depression: two case reports. Psychopathology. 1999; 32: 169 – 72.

7       Freedman AF, Kaplan HI, Sadock BJ. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Vol 2. Baltimore:  Williams and Wilkins; 1975: 13, 995, 1727.

8       Gomez-Alonso J.  Werewolf legend: anor consequence of rabies? Am Acad Neurol. 1999; 52: 73.

9       Davis WM, Wellwuff HG, Garew L, Kydd OU. Psychopharmacology of lycanthropy. CMAJ. 1992; 146: 1191 – 7.

10    Kulick AR, Pope HG, Keck PE. Lycanthropy and self-identification. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1990; 178: 134 – 7.

11    Keck PE, Pope HG, Hudson JI, McElroy SL, Kuilick AR. Lycanthropy: alive and well in  twentieth century. Psychol Med. 1988; 18: 113 – 20.

12    Garlipp P, Godeck-Koch T, Haltenhof H, Dietrich DE. Lycanthropy, zooanthropism, and discussion of a psychopathological phenomenon [in German]. Fortschr Neural Psychiatry. 2001; 69: 215 – 20.


AIM Home | Table of Contents