Yes, this really is a medical article about vampires. Self-proclaimed "real vampires," people who actually consume human blood, feel stigmatized by health care providers, which consequently deters them from having important conversations with their doctors about their potentially dangerous blood-drinking habit.

Researcher Dr. DJ Williams sheds light on the topic in his new study with Emily Prior, in which they interviewed 11 people who identified as vampires. "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," Williams said, according to TechTimes.

Individuals who identify as vampires, fall into two categories: lifestyle vampires and real vampires. Lifestyle vampires enjoy dressing in gothic black attire, sporting phony fangs, and living a largely nocturnal lifestyle. Real vampires, on the other hand, are ordinary people who feel the need to drink human blood in order to gain energy. According to Discovery Magazine, it’s a case of having an “alternate identity” that usually begins somewhere around puberty.

Williams has been studying vampires for over a decade and has found that this group generally shares one salient characteristic. “They are successful, ordinary people,” he said, as reported by Reuters.

Many real vampires tend to be older working professionals whom compensate for their tiring lifestyle by drinking the blood of consenting donors. This is usually done by making a small incision on the chest with a surgical scalpel. According to Williams, vampire or not, these individuals are fully deserving of unprejudiced health care.

“In order to help diverse clients successfully resolve a variety of potential issues, a strong therapeutic alliance with the helping professional must be developed,” the study reads.

Being open about their thirst for blood is not only important for the mental health of real vampires, but also integral to their physical health. Firstly, there’s the obvious danger of drinking blood; imbibing the bodily fluid is one of the surest ways to contract serious diseases such as hepatitis C and B. But even drinking perfectly clean blood can be detrimental to your health. Iron is one of the main components of blood.

Animals that naturally drink blood, such as vampire bats, have an extra mucous membrane in their intestines, which prevents excess amounts of iron from getting into their own blood stream. Without this built-in defense, humans who drink blood put themselves at risk for having too much iron in their body. This overabundance can lead to serious complications, such as liver disease and heart failure.

Along with the dangers of drinking blood, there is also the possibility that a thirst for blood is actually a side effect of a more serious health concern, such as iron deficiency. Without proper professional care, these health concerns will continue to go undiagnosed.

Source: Williams DJ, Prior EE. Do we Always Practice What we Preach? Real Vampires’ Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals. Critical Social Work. 2015.