It’s Halloween, you are on patrol, and the kids are out in droves. Typically you spend your time extra-patrolling to protect and serve youngsters, respond to routine dispatch calls, and arrest drunken idiots. Some new costumes this year, but a lot of the scary classics: mummies, skeletons, the zombies, Frankenstein, werewolves, witches and, of course, vampires. Later you respond to a loud party call, and Count Dracula answers the door. Just one of the many treats you are bound to encounter on this popular holiday. There is bound to be a couple bar brawls. Vampires and werewolves never get along; especially on Halloween. Hopefully no one will vandalize the cemetery this year… But what do you do tomorrow when there is no reason for someone to be impersonating a vampire, has committed a heinous crime, and insists that he “must feed” on human blood as he snarls at you bearing teeth? Everyone knows vampires aren’t real. Well, actually, that is not true… an individual with Renfield’s Syndrome, also known as clinical vampirism, truly believes he or she is a vampire.
There has been a lot of media coverage pertaining to a possible zombie apocalypse recently. However, according to myth, zombies and vampires are quite different. Although they are both monsters of the night, vampires are certainly much more attractive. Vampires feed on human blood while zombies feed on human brains. Reportedly, vampires can be killed, but zombies cannot. By the way, the difference between zombies and your run of the mill cannibals is that although they both eat human flesh, "zombies" are no longer considered human. I’m still not sure what that makes NYPD Officer Gilberto Valle (charged last week with plotting to torture women and then cook and eat their body parts). And yes, in case you were wondering, there is a mental disorder related to individuals who believe they are werewolves, it is called lycanthropy.
Self-identified vampires exist in a variety of forms. However, there is a definite distinction between “lifestyle” and “real” vampires. “Lifestyle” vampires identify with a vampire subculture. They may participate in rituals including bloodletting and consumption. However, they do not believe that they must consume blood in order to maintain their well-being. On the other hand, “real” vampires believe they have a need to feed on human blood in order to maintain their physical, mental, and spiritual health. They have a compulsion to drink blood. “Real” vampires also ascertain that they have paranormal abilities. These “real vampires” are considered to suffer from a rare mental health disorder called Renfield’s Syndrome. The disorder was named after the character Renfield in Bram Stoker's 1887 novel “Dracula”. Renfield was a mental patient who consumes flies in the belief that he will absorb their life force.
Renfield’s Syndrome (RS) AKA Clinical Vampirism
Clinical vampirism has not been officially recognized by the DSM (the bible for mental health diagnoses). This is an extremely rare disorder, and most individuals with this syndrome are male. An individual with RS has a delusion that he is indeed a vampire and believes that blood gives him certain powers. Delusions are deeply fixed beliefs, which can be either false or fanciful. These beliefs are maintained by an individual despite contradictory information or evidence. In extreme forms, delusions are symptoms of psychosis. Delusional individuals cannot clearly distinguish what is real from what is not. Schizophrenics are particularly susceptible to the development of delusions.
Clinical vampirism appears in three stages. The syndrome is described as having three stages: