Vampires, the mythological humanoid creatures that feed on human blood and are invincible and immortal, are not real. However, there do exist people who identify as “vampires,” albeit they have no magical powers. Still, say experts from Idaho State University, mental health professionals need to be more open-minded if they hope to have more success working with people with so-called “alternate identities.”

“We live in an age of technology and live in a time when people can select new, alternate identities to fit how they understand themselves better,” said DJ Williams, Idaho State University associate professor of social work. “We really need to understand some of these new identities and new ways to identify ourselves, and some of these new identities do not fit into stereotypes. Helping professionals of all varieties need more education on these kinds of topics.”

Typically, someone who identifies as a vampire believes they need some kind of alternate or supplemental energy source to survive. This can be anything from psychic energy to moonlight to, yes, blood. But the key, says professor Williams, is that despite their assertions, self-identified “vampires” are still people who deal with the same hardships and issues as everyone else. In those cases, it can be difficult for mental health professionals to set aside their biases or disbelief to focus on the person’s real problems.

“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,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the vampires Williams spoke to were all reluctant to approach clinicians for fear of being seen as evil, or outright crazy. Any barrier to receiving mental healthcare is obviously a bad one, not least of which because if a professional could help a self-identified vampire with one issue, maybe they could eventually help them, you know, stop thinking they’re a vampire.