Capgras Syndrome


Individuals suffering from Capgras syndrome irrationally think that someone close to them has been exchanged with an imposter. In some cases, such patients may also perceive pets or inanimate items as imposters.Capgras Syndrome picture

This disease is named after the French psychiatrist Joseph Capgras who first identified it in the year 1923 and this disorder falls under the umbrella of DMSs (delusional misidentification syndromes). Although it can affect any person, it is found to be more common in females than males.

What are the characteristic features of Capgras Syndrome?

Capgras syndrome can appear to be pretty disturbing for the patients, and also for their near and dear ones. This rare psychiatric condition usually exhibits the following characteristics where the patients:

  • Are determined that someone close to them has been exchanged with a double
  • Witnesses true as well as double persons
  • May be extrapolated to objects and animals
  • Are aware of the abnormalities of the perceptions they happen to possess, and there are no evidence of hallucination
  • The double is typically a significant figure for the patient when the symptoms of Capgras syndrome start to appear, and if married; the key figure is always either of the spouses

The associated features of this disease are illustrated below in brief:

  • Cerebral lesions induced by a head injury, which are often caused in the posterior side of one’s right hemisphere, the area responsible for face recognition
  • Paranoid-hallucinatory schizophrenia

Capgras Syndrome Causes

The precise causative factors are yet to be known, but a few theories do make an attempt to answer this intriguing question. So probable causes include:

  • An injury in the lesions on the human brain
  • A disconnect between the visual part in one’s brain, and the area responsible for processing facial familiarity
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Schizophrenia
  • Hypothyroidism

Capgras Syndrome Symptoms

In sharp contrast to other psychiatric conditions, which typically influences various aspects of the life of the affected person, individuals with this disorder act normally albeit around the person or persons they perceive as an imposter.

  1. The most significant symptom is patients gradually start to buy the thought that someone close is either has been exchanged with someone else or is indeed a double.
  2. The patients may accept that the imposter resembles precisely like the original, though they think that they are looking through the disguise. This can create anxiety and alter the behavior of the patients.
  3. Patients may turn to be aggressive towards the imposter in some cases, which are rather an exception and not a rule. The person is more likely to appear fearful or anxious.
  4. They may become preoccupied with the thoughts of the imposter or discovering the real person. This can result in further arguments, stress, and anger between such patients and the people around them.

Capgras Syndrome Diagnosis

As Capgras syndrome is a rare condition and poorly understood, no such definitive diagnostic methods exist for it. The diagnosis is mainly made on the basis of psychiatric evaluation of the informant suffering from this delusion.

Capgras Syndrome Differential Diagnosis

  • Schizophrenia
  • Huntington’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Dementia
  • Mood disorders accompanied by delusion (MDD)
    – Manic
    – Depressive
  • Delusional disorders induced by substances (DDS)
    – Hallucinogens
    – Alcohol

Capgras Syndrome Treatment

At present, no such standard protocol is established for treating Capgras syndrome, and further studies are required to explore the most effective procedure it can be treated. Treating the underlying causative condition is found to soothe or even cure the symptoms in some cases. For instance, treating or controlling Alzheimer’s may mitigate the symptoms associated with Capgras syndrome. Treatment varies widely and may include the following options:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Surgery
  • Therapy
  • Memory and recognition drugs

Other Treatments

  1. Validation therapy may also prove to be beneficial in specific cases, where someone intentionally accepts the misidentification for helping the patient to reduce anxiety and relax.
  2. In other cases, facilities and care providers may actively try to ground the affected individual in reality, as much as possible, by continuously reminding the patient of the place and the time.
  3. Family members and caregivers can also aid by providing a comfortable and safe place devoid of external stressors.

Caring for the Affected Individual

  • Being sympathizing and patient, as this disease can cause anxiety and fear
  • Restricting exposure of the patient to the imposter, at the time of an episode
  • Avoid making the imposters talk before the patient sees them, as the individual with Capgras syndrome may recognize their voices
  • Acknowledging the emotions that surround the identity delusion at the time of their occurrence
  • Not going into an argument with the patient about the imposter

Capgras Syndrome Preventions

As very little information is discovered about Capgras syndrome to date, prevention means managing the disorder as soon as the signs begin to appear.

To prevent the progress of this disease, the underlying causative conditions that can be attributed to its associative symptoms are addressed primarily. For instance, a schizophrenia patient who develops this disorder will likely be placed on a regimen that tries to mitigate the symptoms of schizophrenia and may lessen the episodes. Those caring for or working with people with this syndrome are suggested to provide a non-judgmental and welcoming environment for such patients. Medications and surgery are also considered on a case-to-case basis.

Capgras Syndrome Prognosis

A number of Individuals diagnosed with this disease may never fully recover. Nonetheless, family members and care providers can help such people to reduce their symptoms, including fear and anxiety.

When to visit a doctor?

Anyone experiencing the symptoms mentioned above should consult a specialist as early as possible.

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