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Men's Health

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Halloween: The Truth Is Out There

Science says there's no such thing as vampires or werewolves -- doesn't it? Come with us now as we take a look behind the veil of legend. The facts may be scarier than you think.

After the Flood continued...

In the March 2000 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, J. Arturo Silva, MD and Gregory B. Leong, MD describe the case of "Mr. A" who suffered from a case of partial lycanthropy -- the delusion that one is being transformed into a wolf.

"Mr. A is a 46-year-old male who experienced delusional episodes that lasted up to several hours. During these episodes, he had sensations of hair growth on his face, trunk, and arms. Occasionally, he became convinced that the hair growth was real. He also complained that he experienced structural facial malformations and lesions that took place within minutes and remained for hours. He thought these changes would make him appear to be a wolf, and avoided seeing his face or body whenever possible. However, he did not believe that he was a wolf. He denied that his mind was changing into a different mind or that he was a different person from his objective self."

Silva, who is a staff psychiatrist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., tells WebMD that lycanthropy, "can be due to a hysteria or a psychosis -- in other words madness -- or it can be due to other kinds of illnesses, such as depression associated with a lot of self-deprecating thoughts. But often, once you start getting into a real belief system where somebody says 'I think I'm turning into a werewolf,' and he looks at his body and his hair, and the shape of his face changing -- once you get to that level it usually is a clear loss of contact with reality."

Silva says that lycanthropy is uncommon today -- probably because we've killed or banished most of the wolves to the remote wilderness and thus no longer live among them. However, people in other cultures in other parts of the world suffer from similar delusions, involving other types of animals, such as crocodiles or eagles.

Such transformations may seem to be the stuff of fantasy, but they still occur every year. If you don't believe it, just open your door this Halloween.

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Reviewed on October 20, 2003

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