Lycanthropy, do I become an animal?

Lycanthropy, do I become an animal?

On November 18, 1809, Manuel Blanco Romasanta was born in a Galician village. His life would have been like any other villager if it weren't for a little detail: he was a serial killer and the first documented case of clinical lycanthropy in Spain. Apparently, Romasanta committed thirteen murders, which made him a serial killer. However, to his self-defense, he claimed that he committed crimes when he became a wolf. Was Romasanta really a crazy man or did he suffer from any mental illness?

Writing about lycanthropy is a complex issue. The existing scientific literature in this regard is scarce. Trying to classify lycanthropy in one disorder or another, as we will see throughout the article, is a complicated task.. It is known that those who suffer from this "disorder" may experience negative consequences in their lives, but there is still no established diagnosis accepted by a majority of professionals. That is why, it cannot be classified as a "disorder" proper, but in this article, to facilitate reading, we will refer to lycanthropy as a pathology.


  • 1 Lycanthropy
  • 2 What disorder is hidden behind lycanthropy?
  • 3 Psychotic disorders
  • 4 Conclusion


Lycanthropy is the belief of being a werewolf. This disorder belongs to a larger one called teriantropy, which encompasses the belief of being able to transform into any animal. It comes from the conjunction of two Greek terms: "thieron"beast and "anthopros", man. However, due to its widespread use, sometimes the concept of lycanthropy is also used as a synonym for teriantropy. As described by Donnolli's team (2014): "Lycanthropy is a low frequency psychopathological phenomenon that It manifests as the firm belief of the body's own transformation into that of an animal with the adoption of behaviors and expressions consistent with the change ".

This disorder is not included in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Being such a rare phenomenon, there is little scientific literature about it. In 1988, P.E. Keck, delimited two important points for the diagnosis of lycanthropy, of which, it was only enough to give one. These are the following criteria:

  • The individual has expressed verbally, during lucid intervals or retrospectively, to be a particular animal.
  • The individual has behaved in a manner similar to a particular animal.

What disorder is hidden behind lycanthropy?

The disorder that lies behind lycanthropy is unclear. Some authors point out that it is classified as "Somatic symptoms and related disorders not specified." However, it could also fit into the "Spectrum disorder of unspecified schizophrenia and other psychotic disorder."

Somatic Symptoms and Related Disorders

As Vicente Felipe Donnolli (2014) team states, lycanthropy is not included in the DSM-V (2014), but it could fit into a category called "Somatic symptom disorders and related disorders". This category is composed of the following disorders:

  1. Somatic symptom disorder.
  2. From anxiety due to illness.
  3. Conversion (functional neurological symptom disorder).
  4. Factitious Disorder
  5. Other disorder of somatic symptoms and specific related disorders.
  6. Somatic symptom disorder and related non-specific disorders.

Lycanthropy does not fit with any of the first five disorders. So it could be classified in the "Somatic symptoms disorder and related non-specific disorders", which according to the DSM-V (2014), "will not be used unless given clearly unusual situations where there is not enough information to make a more specific diagnosis"Lycanthropy could fit provisionally in this disorder, since it is a very unusual phenomenon and there is not enough information to carry out a more specific diagnosis.

Psychotic disorders

On the other hand, lycanthropy could be classified as "Spectrum of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders". Specifically, within "Spectrum disorder of unspecified schizophrenia and other psychotic disorder". In these types of disorders, delusions, which undoubtedly, is closely linked to lycatropia, are especially important. But what exactly is delirium?

Rave is an important concept to explain this phenomenon. According to the DSM-V (2014), the delusions "are fixed beliefs that are not subject to change in light of the evidence against them. Its content may include several themes (for example, persecutory, referential, somatic, religious, greatness) ". The question is, in what kind of delusions could lycanthropy be located? Maybe in delusions of grandeur and somatic delusions.

  • Delusions of greatness. The person believes he has talent or knowledge (not recognized) or has made some important discovery.
  • Somatic delusions. It is applied when delirium implies bodily functions or sensations.

Between the two delusions, the one that best fits would be the somatic one, since it is related to bodily sensations, as in this case, to transform into a werewolf.


As we have seen, lycanthropy puts on the table a lack of research on the subject. The impossibility of classifying it is a challenge for mental health professionals. However, as the years go by and new manuals on mental health are published, it may manage to make its own place as a disorder. Despite this difficulty in its classification, it does not prevent it from being treated in therapy. It is important to know that not all mental problems can be classified today, however, it can be approached from psychology.


  • American Psychiatric Association (2014). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Pan American Medical Editorial.
  • Donnilo, V., Paola, M. and F, Rodríguez. (2014). Lycanthropy delirium: body and identity. Argentine Journal of Neuropsychiatric Clinic, 19 (1), 5-18.