Real-life vampires are more common than most people think - but they hide their identities because they are worried about being stereotyped by doctors and other healthcare professionals, a study has found.
DJ Williams, a social work associate professor at Idaho State University, has published a study into vampirism and how it poses challenges for clinicians.
Self-identified vampires say they have different energy requirements compared to other people and need different sources of energy to feed.
Williams and co-author Emily Prior said all of the vampires interviewed for the study said they were worried about approaching clinicians because they did not want to be judged as being evil, wicked, delusional or psychotic. He said it is important for healthcare professionals to be able to treat those who identify as vampires without prejudice.
Published in the journal Critical Social Work, the researchers wrote: "Mythical vampires seem to capture attention and generate interest like few other topics can. Mythological vampiric figures have been present across diverse cultures for thousands of years. Particularly interesting, of course, is that the vampire seems to occupy a curious space between life and death."
It is not clear exactly how many people worldwide self-identify as vampires, they said, but those who do tend to want to keep their identities a secret over fears of prejudice.
Williams explained: "The gist of the article is that self-identified vampires are probably more common than most people realise. A lot of people probably assume they are younger kids or young people who watch 'Twilight' or other pop-culture types of things.
"Yet, the real vampire community, which is self-defined by people who claim the need for extra energy (either blood or psychic energy), tend not to fit that demographic stereotype."
He said people with "alternative identities" face the same problems and pressures as everyone else, so clinicians need to be "open and educated" about vampires in order to ensure they receive the help they require.
"People with real vampire identities, at least those within this sample, are fearful that clinicians will label them as being psychopathological in some way (ie delusional, immature, unstable), perhaps wicked, and not competent to perform in typical social roles, such as parenting," they concluded.
"The findings from this study suggest ... that social workers and helping professionals should learn more about alternative identities and communities, listen and learn from clients, strive to become more aware of our own potential biases and stereotypes, and interrogate and challenge common social discourses that pathologise and demonize.
"By doing so, social workers can establish trust with clients who have alternative identities and belief systems, provide services to a more diverse clientele, and establish strong alliances that contribute to effective service."