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Lycanthropy as a Culture-Bound Syndrome: A Case Report and Review of the Literature

Bou Khalil, Rami MD*; Dahdah, Pierre; Richa, Sami MD, PhD; Kahn, David A. MD

Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: January 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 1 - p 51–54
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000410988.38723.a3
Clinical Case Discussion

Lycanthropy is an unusual belief or delusion that one has been transformed into an animal, or behaviors or feelings suggestive of such a belief. We report a case of lycanthropic delusions of becoming a snake in a 47-year-old woman who suffered from a major depressive disorder with psychotic features. We also present a literature review of articles published on the subject in English or French since 1975 identified via a MedLine search using the terms “lycanthropy” or “werewolf.” Many case reports have described lycanthropy as a delusional disorder occurring acutely in patients who think they suffer from a demonic possession as a punishment for their acts. In these cases, symptoms are generally rapidly reversible. Lycanthropy seems to be a nonspecific manifestation of many psychiatric diseases, most commonly major depressive disorder with psychotic features. It is largely influenced by the cultural environment of the patient so that the animal species frequently represents the patient’s delusional representation of evil. Lycanthropy could be considered a culture-bound syndrome that occurs in association with Axis I, DSM-IV psychiatric pathology. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2012;18:51–54)

*Hotel Dieu de France Hospital, Beirut, and Psychiatric Hospital of the Cross, Jalledib, Lebanon

Hotel Dieu de France Hospital, Beirut

Saint Joseph University, Beirut, and Hotel Dieu de France Hospital, Beirut

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.