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Mental Health Center

5 Halloween Character Case Files

WebMD delves into the medical and psychological histories of witches, zombies, ghouls, vampires, and werewolves to uncover the scary truth about these frightening figures.
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Halloween Character Case File No. 4: Vampires

Probably the best-known vampire is Dracula, the centuries-old vampire who stars in the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker.

While some say vampires have no heart, that's not true, says Lapin, who self-published a book, The Vampire, Dracula, and Incest. "A vampire has a heart, but it is imploded [psychologically]," he says. That's the origin, he says, of a vampire's need to suck blood.

Developmentally, he says, the vampire has a "glitch" in the oral sucking stage of development. "It's not accurate to say they are fixated," he says, "because if they are really fixated that would be the roots of narcissism."

"Dracula was a narcissist, but not all [vampires] are," says Lapin.

"Vampires may have a psychological need to control others," says Barbara Almond, MD, a Palo Alto, Calif., psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. She has published on the topic of Bram Stoker's Dracula and its psychoanalytic explanation.

Vampirism, she says, could represent a fantasy. "The fantasy would be taking over and controlling others by bleeding them."

The victim and vampire, she tells WebMD, can become pathologically dependent on each other. The victim may also become a vampire, and then they will never leave each other.

Krippner sees yet another possibility for a vampire's behavior. "Vampires may be anemic," he says. Going after another's blood, he says, "might be a form of self-medication."

If he had to pick a psychiatric diagnosis for vampires, he says, "I would say they were suffering from delusional schizophrenia." Vampires might have believed they could live a long time if they drank human blood, Krippner says.

Halloween Character Case File No. 5: Werewolves

Werewolves, talked about and reported on since ancient Greek times, may have a rare psychiatric disorder called lycanthropy, in which one has the delusion he or she is being transformed into a wolf.

The lycanthropy can be due to a psychosis or hysteria, what most of us call madness, Lapin says. It's not linked with depression, he says.

Werewolves, Lapin says, also "get a sexual thrill, conscious or unconscious, from murdering. They want to dominate and control through terror that evokes submission, and they want to humiliate and degrade."

Believing he is turning into a wolf by imagining the hair growth is the werewolf's way to disassociate, Lapin says. "It's simply a way to stay unconscious of what they are doing."

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