Clinical vampirism

Clinical vampirism,[1][2][3] more commonly called Renfield's syndrome[4] or Renfield syndrome, is a term used to describe an obsession to drink blood, although the disorder has never been categorized in the DSM-IV. The term was first coined (whimsically) by Richard Noll and is named after Dracula's insect-eating assistant, Renfield, in the novel by Bram Stoker.[2][5][6] The term has been used in both psychiatric and fictional literature, as well as on television, where it was mentioned in an episode of CSI titled "Committed" (Season 5, Episode 21).[7][2]

People who suffer from this condition are primarily male. The craving for blood arises from the idea that it conveys life-enhancing powers. According to Noll, the condition starts with a key event in childhood that causes the experience of blood injury or the ingestion of blood to be exciting. After puberty, the excitement is experienced as sexual arousal. Throughout adolescence and adulthood, blood, its presence, and its consumption can also stimulate a sense of power and control. Noll explains that Renfield's syndrome begins with autovampirism and then progresses to the consumption of the blood of other creatures.[2]

The usefulness of this diagnostic label remains in question. Very few cases of the syndrome have been described, and the published reports that do exist refer to what has been proposed as Renfield's syndrome through the use of official psychiatric diagnostic categories such as schizophrenia or as a variety of paraphilia. A number of murderers have performed seemingly vampiric rituals upon their victims. Serial killers Peter Kürten and Richard Trenton Chase were both called "vampires" in the tabloids after they were discovered drinking the blood of the people they murdered. Similarly, in 1932, an unsolved murder case in Stockholm, Sweden was nicknamed the "Vampire murder", due to the circumstances of the victim’s death.[8]

In addition to references to Renfield's syndrome in the psychiatric literature and mass media, the horror writer Chelsea Quinn Yarbro published a story entitled "Renfield's Syndrome" in July 2002, which was then reprinted in an anthology that appeared the following year.


See also


  1. ^ Kamir, Orit (2001). Every Breath You Take: Stalking Narratives and the Law. ISBN 0472110896. "... here as a clinical vampirism should bear a new eponymous label in future psychiatric treatment and be renamed Renfield's syndrome in honor of the character ..." 
  2. ^ a b c d Ramsland, Katherine. "Renfield's Syndrome". Crime Library. Retrieved 2007-12-18. "Psychiatrists are aware that there exists a behavior known as "clinical vampirism," which is a syndrome involving the delusion of actually being a vampire and feeling the need for blood. This arises not from fiction and film but from the erotic attraction to blood and the idea that it conveys certain powers, although the actual manifestation of the fantasy may be influenced by fiction. It develops through fantasies involving sexual excitement." 
  3. ^ "Clinical vampirism. A presentation of 3 cases and a re-evaluation of Haigh, the 'acid-bath murderer'.". S Afr Med J.. Retrieved 2007-12-18. "Clinical vampirism is named after the mythical vampire, and is a recognizable, although rare, clinical entity characterized by periodic compulsive blood-drinking, affinity with the dead and uncertain identity. It is hypothetically the expression of an inherited archaic myth, the act of taking blood being a ritual that gives temporary relief. From ancient times vampirists have given substance to belief in the existence of supernatural vampires. Four vampirists, including Haigh, the 'acid-bath murderer', are described." 
  4. ^ "Will those elusive vampires show up at a symposium dedicated to them?". Macleans. Retrieved 2007-12-18. "In fact, there is a psychiatric condition called Renfield's Syndrome, named for the mentally deranged character in Bram Stoker's Dracula who craves spiders and bugs, believing them to be a life force. Those suffering from the syndrome have an erotic attraction to ingesting blood, which they see as a means of gaining immortality and other powers." 
  5. ^ Richard Noll (1992). Vampires, Werewolves and Demons: twentieth century reports in the psychiatric literature. Brunner/Mazel Publications. ISBN 0-87630-632-6. 
  6. ^ "Vampires aren't just about blood, teeth and Dracula.". University Wire. Retrieved 2007-12-18. "Renfield syndrome is another disease linked with the idea of vampirism. Named after Renfield from Bram Stoker's "Dracula," Renfield's syndrome consists of ..." 
  7. ^ "CSI:Committed". CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Archived from the original on 2008-02-28. Retrieved 2007-12-18. "Kenny Valdez is in the Seclusion Room, strapped to a bed in a five-point restraint system, claiming he can "smell it!" Kenny suffers from Renfield's syndrome, a self-mutilator. The CSIs notice that even though Kenny has blood on his clothes, there is no spatter pattern." 
  8. ^ (Swedish) Linnell, Stig (1993) [1968]. Stockholms spökhus och andra ruskiga ställen. Raben Prisma. ISBN 91-518-2738-7. 

Further reading

  • Vanden Bergh, R. L., & Kelly, J. F. (1964). Vampirism: A review with new observations. Archives of General Psychiatry, 11, 543-547.
  • Prins, H. (1985). Vampirism — A clinical condition. British Journal of Psychiatry, 146, 666-668.
  • Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn. Apprehensions and Other Delusions. (Waterville, Maine: Five Star, 2003).

External links

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