Regardless of whether they were bitten or born, the majority of werewolves are able to adjust well to their condition and lead normal, productive lives. Normal is defined by the lifestyle a particular werewolf has chosen to live. The vast majority live alongside humans and attempt to blend into human society and live in much the same way the average human citizen of their particular culture would. For these werewolves the natural balance between the Human and Wolf sides of their personality is heavily slanted toward Human at all times. A werewolf that has chosen to live apart from humans, either alone or in a pack, will likely have the balance shifted more toward the middle or slightly stronger on the Wolf side. Some factors can increase the natural influence of the Wolf in these werewolves, such as being cub-born.
The Wolf and Human sides act as a harmonious split in the mind of each werewolf. They do not function as separate personalities, but work to complement each other. In almost all individuals the natural state is for the Human to be dominant, using the instincts taken from the Wolf to help guide behavior. After shifting this allows them to maintain a constant state of human intelligence and alertness and prevents them from getting carried away by powerful animal instincts. The Wolf must be treated with respect though, and each werewolf will have to find for itself just how frequently it needs to be ‘let out.’ A minimum of one shift every 2-4 weeks, in a place where the Wolf can stretch its legs, explore, and engage its senses is usually all it takes.
At times a werewolf may find itself unable to let the Wolf come out, usually due to fears of being discovered by humans or restrictive physical injury. In this case the mental stress may trigger a psychological defense mechanism that will allow it to continue interacting with humans without the normal pressures to shift that would come from the Wolf after too much time has passed. The Wolf becomes dormant, retreating from its normal influence over the werewolf’s mind. Though the werewolf can call it up at any time to shift, it becomes very difficult and the werewolf is unlikely to unless the source of the stress is removed. Naturally sharp senses dull, animal instincts fade, and the werewolf will find itself feeling almost as if it has become fully human. In addition there is often an overall state of depressed mentation that leaves the werewolf with reduced alertness and responsiveness to its environment. This results in personality changes of werewolves placed in restrictive environments, such as prison, that are thought to be beneficial to the species as a whole by reducing the chance of behaviors that would draw human attention.
Werewolves are susceptible to a variety of mental disorders, both shared by humans and unique to them. Unique werewolf disorders are usually a result of an imbalance between the Human and Wolf sides. Unique Disorders
This occurs when a werewolf decides that it does not want to acknowledge the demands of the Wolf side. It attempts to gain full control over mind and body with the Human side, ignoring any thoughts or feelings that do not seem human. Without an outside source of mental stress the natural defense mechanism is not engaged. The demands of the Wolf grow and become more difficult to ignore over time. If the werewolf does not give in the Wolf it will eventually overpower the Human side, forcing a shift and leading to a period of a few hours where it is in complete control and no sign of human reasoning will be seen. This is usually triggered by something that brings out strong emotions, such as fear or anger, or something that excites the werewolf’s natural prey drive.
Commonly referred to as ‘going feral.’ In the opposite of repression, the balance in the werewolf’s mind swings dramatically to the Wolf side. The Wolf is very powerful when the balance shifts too much, and it is able to completely suppress the Human influence in the werewolf’s mind. After going feral a werewolf will forget all things associated with its previous life, including its identity and even the fact that it was ever human at all. Behavior will be exactly as you would expect to see from a natural wolf, though it may display slightly increased intelligence. Personality is usually non-aggressive, and it will avoid contact with humans. This mental state will continue indefinitely unless something deeply personal from the werewolf’s previous life brings back the surge of dormant memories. This can be in the form of the sight or scent of a loved one, or hearing the sound of its name spoken to it. Interestingly there are no known cases of a werewolf being brought back out of ferality and experiencing it a second time. It is thought that the knowledge of the experience provides intrusive thoughts that interfere whenever the same conditions are encountered again.
There are three recognized causes of ferality.Isolation
- The most common cause, though this is still a very rare disorder. Some werewolves, upon finding themselves completely alone and spending large amounts of time in wolf form, will slowly begin to lose touch with the Human side. They are unaware of what is happening and it must continue uninterrupted for a long time before they completely forget who they are. Since not all individuals will react this way to isolation it is thought that personality factors influence each werewolf’s susceptibility or resistance to ferality. Trauma
- Experiences of extreme emotional or physical trauma can cause the Wolf to take over in part of a ‘fight or flight’ survival instinct. Usually this is temporary and subsides once the Wolf feels that the danger has passed, but in rare cases it never lets go. The werewolf experiences an acute loss of memory and immediately seeks to defend itself or run and hide from the threat. Though its behavior will usually mimic the timidness of a real wolf, there is a notable exception in some instances of starvation. Deprived of food by the Human, which refuses to resort to cannibalism, the Wolf may take over and become a maneater to ensure its survival. Free Choice
- If a werewolf has a strong connection with both sides it may have the ability to control them with more precision than normal. After getting itself into a relaxed, meditative state of mind it can chose to make the Human submit to the Wolf, allowing it to live the rest of its life controlled by animal instincts and desires.
Shapeshifting Maladjustment Syndrome
An extremely rare disorder with few examples collected between all werewolf packs. Whereas repression represents an over-influence of the Human and ferality an over-influence of the Wolf, maladjustment is a series of unpredictable swings back and forth between the two. This is a chronic condition with unknown cause. Symptoms are usually not recognized until they have had many years to develop. Over time the swings get worse but the werewolf may gain the ability to predict them. During a swing the Wolf will have greater influence, but not enough to induce ferality. In everyday interactions animalistic instinctive responses that are usually easily repressed by the Human become difficult to ignore. The werewolf does not feel an increased need to shift, but will simply display more animal behaviors in human form. Prey drive may be heightened, leading to a distracting desire to chase small animals. These intrusive thoughts become increasingly stressful, eventually leading to a near constant state of disorientation. Once the disorder has progressed this far behavior may become erratic and dangerous. There is no known treatment for maladjustment, but any werewolf believed to be experiencing it is advised to avoid interacting with humans when it feels a swing coming and to try to find a support system to help keep its mind clear when confusion sets in. Disorders Shared With Humans
Though the species is extremely hardy, as evidenced by their strong immune system and increased healing abilities, werewolves are still capable of being affected by any psychological disorder that can affect humans. Disorders that are thought to have a purely genetic basis show up with the same frequency. Many that are mostly environmental, however, are less common in werewolves. One exception is stress related disorders. Many werewolves lead lives that come with all the same stressors as humans but also have to face additional stressors related to their unique condition. After a lifetime of additional stress some may be more susceptible to disorders such as PTSD. Some disorders are actually more common in werewolves, especially claustrophobia. The fear of being restricted and enclosed arises naturally from the Wolf’s suspicious and defensive instincts.
The single most important factor influencing a werewolf’s likeliness to develop mental disorders is lack of a strong support system in the form of family, friends, or a pack. Advice and guidance from others can help a werewolf avoid some problems. Even the simple act of being there makes it easier to bear and can reduce recovery time. It is a well-documented fact that lone wolves are more likely to succumb to stress and develop rogue behaviors."
Chapter #7 in my Illustrated Werewolf Guide. Tried to make a colorful and not horribly crummy looking picture to go with this one.
Non-wolf shapeshifters- [link]
How shapeshifting is transferred with a bite- [link]
Physical appearances- [link]
South America- [link]
This is one of my favorite subjects relating to werewolves, so it is one of the ones I have put the most thought into when creating my species.
I like the idea of there being a good balance between positive and negative qualities when creating a species. Too much power and invulnerability and it gets boring. Too much weakness and it isn’t fun any more. For my wolves this is reflected both in their physical and mental abilities.
I think I may have to end this soon. I am running out of topics to write about.
Picture has weirdo anatomy.
Watercolor over graphite.