The word lycanthropy is derived from the Greek words lykoi (wolf) and anthropos (man).  Lycanthropic disorder is a mental state of a man or woman where he or she thinks that he or she is an animal. This person cannot actually change from human to animal form.

According to myths, the defining characteristic of lycanthropy is the transformation from man to beast which can be forced by the presence of the full moon.

Legends say that a person can be turned into a werewolf through witchcraft, blood infected from the bite of another werewolf, or the Lycaeonia curse. The Lycaeonia curse turns the person into a werewolf because he or she has harmed another person. The cursed person is, then, doomed to hunt during the night to make other werewolves or catch their prey, whatever it may be.

Today’s weres, however, are people who believe they were wolves in their past lives reincarnated as a human. Some lycanthropes live in forests and make friends with other lycanthropes. The forest is seen as a place for those who believe they are something other than human, a channel devoted to lycanthropy, wereism, and shape-shifting.  

Historically, people have believed in the myth of the werewolf. This belief resulted in many people being labeled as werewolves, some undergoing criminal investigation and torture because they were thought to have committed evil deeds while under the influence of Satan.  

There are many old tales of werewolves, which often seem to have women who are labeled as such. For example, the tale of “The Royal Werewolf” from the mountains of Auvergne is the tale of a lovely lady who met her unfortunate end at the hands of her husband once he discovered that she was a werewolf. He found out that she was a werewolf by chatting with a hunter who had engaged in battle with the lady in her wolf form and cut off her paw, a paw with his wife’s ring on it. Upon confronting her, he saw that her hand was missing. She confessed that she was a werewolf, and he had her executed.

Today, there are still many people who believe they are werewolves or werecats and some of them have been treated by psychologists and psychiatrists. In one case study, a patient was admitted to the hospital after repeated displays of unusual behavior including howling at the moon, sleeping in cemeteries, allowing his hair and beard to grow out, and lying in the center of busy highways. He had no history of drug or alcohol abuse and had once been a farmer of average intelligence, a fact that was discovered when he was administered an IQ test while serving in the United States Navy. Because of his increasing dementia, doctors performed a brain biopsy which showed that he had abnormal physiological deterioration of cerebral tissue. He was diagnosed as having chronic brain syndrome of unknown origin and, when placed on antipsychotic drugs, he showed no further symptoms of lycanthropy. Instead, he displayed quiet, childlike behavior.