POCATELLO, Idaho, July 9 (UPI) -- People who self-identify as vampires -- and consume either human or animal blood as a means of maintaining their health and well-being -- fear "coming out of the coffin" to social workers and clinicians because they don't want to be judged as evil or mentally ill.
Researchers conducted a study of the vampire community to help illuminate what they said is a more common alternative identity than most people realize. They say a lack of knowledge or understanding poses a challenge for health professionals.
"People with alternative identities have the same set of issues that everybody has," said DJ Williams, an associate professor at Idaho State University, in a press release. "People of all kinds sometimes struggle with relationship issues or have a death in family or struggles with career and job-type issues. Some of these people with alternate identities may come to a therapist with these issues, and if clinicians are open and educated about this group they should be able to help the individual much better."
Researchers interviewed 11 self-identified vampires, who had adopted a real vampire identity for between 3.5 and 41 years. The mean age of the group was 37, with 3 participants younger than 30 and 6 over age 40. Nearly all of the participants reported being female, with one being female-assigned intersex, one post-operative male-to-female transgender, one gender-queer and one male.
More than half the participants reporting being single, with the rest involved in some kind of committed relationship. Researchers reported five participants identified as bisexual or bicurious, three as heterosexual, two as pansexual or omnisexual, and one as asexual.
Drawing a difference between "lifestyle" vampires who wear black clothes and fake fangs, "real" vampires consume blood from consenting individuals by using a razor to make small incisions in their chests and lick or suck out the blood. They claim to have different energy needs than other people, requiring them to "feed" on blood.
The study revealed that in all cases these people fear revealing their vampire identities to healthcare professionals, because of real concerns beyond being seen as mentally ill, including losing their jobs, further ostracization from society or having their children taken away.
The purpose of the study was to better inform clinicians about a subset of people who may need treatment and fall into a category of alternative identities that often are judged negatively, including by social workers. These include bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism practices, all of which researchers wrote in the study are not associated with psychopathology.
"The real vampire community seems to be a conscientious and ethical one," Williams told Empire State Tribune, explaining that they need non-judgmental professionals to be able to honestly seek help. "Most vampires believe they were born that way -- they don't choose this."
The study is published in Critical Social Work.