Vampires are real. No, not the impossibly perfect Cullens in the "Twilight" movies or tortured but well-dressed souls in CW shows. But human beings who self-identify as vampires and may drink blood or sleep in coffins. And these people need as much psychotherapy and medical help as the rest of us.

That's the conclusion of a study by D.J. Williams, director of social work at Idaho State University, and published in the July issue of the peer-reviewed journal Critical Social Work.

Williams and his co-author, Emily E. Prior, a researcher at the College of the Canyons, interviewed 11 vampires from across the United States and South Africa and found that they were reluctant to come out to clinicians because they were fearful about being labeled as being psychopathological or "perhaps wicked, and not competent to perform in typical social roles, such a parenting."

However, he noted that the people he interviewed "seem to function normally, based on demographic questions concerning their psychiatric histories, in their social and occupational roles, and some have achieved considerable success in their chosen careers."

Williams advised that clinicians should view vampirism from the prism of it being an "alternative identity" similar to those adopted by goths, otherkin and furries. He theorized that "rapid advances in technology provide a social environment conducive to the development of unique and unconventional identities."

"We should not be surprised to see a proliferation of nontraditional identities in the future," Williams wrote.

Williams emphasized that "it is important for helping professionals, such as social workers, to remember that people with vampire identities are just that, people — they have common issues like those with mainstream identities."

"Self-identified vampires work regular jobs and participate in the broader communities in which they live. Like people in the mainstream, self-identified vampires may deal with stress, various health issues, relationship difficulties, education or career transitions and various other struggles that people commonly face," he wrote.

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