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Psych Snippet: Renfield Syndrome

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The Gist of the Psych

The disorder known as Renfield syndrome goes by another name: clinical vampirism. The name of the syndrome is based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, more specifically the character Renfield, an inmate of a mental institution. In the tale, Renfield experiences delusions that prompt him to consume living creatures in order to procure their life-force for himself.

Not a stand-alone diagnosis, clinical vampirism is a condition that is usually associated with individuals, mostly men, who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia (abnormal interpretation of reality) or paraphilia (sexual arousal of unconventional objects or circumstances). Generally, the syndrome results from an experience from childhood wherein blood became associated with feelings of exhilaration and pleasure. After puberty, said association often becomes sexualized.

So, like, why blood? Right? Well, according to a 1992 study, those who imbibe blood are often motivated by their delusional belief that they are vampires and, therefore, require blood. For others, the need to drink plasma may provide a fetishistic release, foster a sense of power/immortality, or act as a compulsion.

Who is Renfield; what's his backstory? with Dr Kaja Franck - Dracula

The Un-Romanticized Reality of Clinical Vampirism: Behavioral Manifestations

A three-stage progression of the syndrome evolves as follows:

1) Autovampirism- the individual gains satisfaction from consuming his or her blood.

2) Zoophagia- the individual ingests animal blood and living creatures, such as insects, cats, dogs, birds, and other smaller species.

3) Vampirism- the individual finally requires the blood of another human, more than likely in a very non-consensual matter.

Additional destructive behaviors, such as limited impulse control and criminalization, develop concurrently with the syndrome’s progression.

Social and Cultural Significance Sans Hollywood-tinted Glasses

Dispell the fantastical hope that if one were -in fact- a victim of a “vampire”, the outcome would culminate in an existence wherein a glittery-skinned, un-aging, gorgeous gang of vampires play baseball in a thunderstorm. Nor will one find partnership with some sensual, wise, and exquisite creature that appreciates and exploits the lavish luxuries of New Orleans.

Nay, a clinical vampire is, well, a little more metal. Okay, a lot more metal. Here are a select few individuals with varying psychological diagnoses, symptoms of which include Renfield syndrome, and the reality of “vampirism”.

Richard Chase - "The Vampire of Sacramento"

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  • Chase had an extended history of mental illness, including delusional thinking, paranoia, and psychosis, as well as a history of drug use.
  • He was known to have drank and inject animal blood
  • His impotence consumed him and sparked his belief that a shortage of blood in his body was to blame.
  • Chase was a disorganized killer, choosing his victims at random and murdering, more than anything, to satiate his bloodlust.
  • He was a documented necrophiliac and coprophiliac; the former refers to the erotic attraction to dead bodies, while the latter refers to arousal linked to interacting with and consuming fecal matter.
  • Between December 1977 to January 1978, Chase murdered seven individuals. The list of atrocities he committed to his victims are extensive and include necrophilia, mutilation, bathing in/drinking blood, and cannibalism.
  • Chase was apprehended for these crimes and stood trial in 1979; he was sentenced to death but completed suicide in prison by overdosing on antipsychotic medication.

Allan Menzies - "The Vampire Killer"

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  • Menzies had an unhealthy obsession with the vampire film, Queen of the Damned. More particulaly, his fixation was on the movie’s vampire progenitor, Akasha, who Menzies believed visited him regularly with the offer of immortality in exchange for killing mortals to harvest their souls.
  • In 2002, 22-year-old Menzies stabbed his best friend, Thomas McKendrick, 42 times. He then ate part of McKendrick’s head and drank his blood.
  • He was apprehended and stood trial, during which he confirmed his belief that he was now a vampire, as well as immortal.
  • The Scottish crown diagnosed him as a psychopath, and Menzies received a minimum sentence of 18 years.
  • Allan Menzies died of apparent suicide in 2004.

References

Renfield Syndrome/ Clinical Vampirism

Richard Chase

Allan Menzies