Capgras Syndrome


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Understanding Capgras Syndrome

Capgras Syndrome is a rare mental health condition characterized by a distorted perception of reality on the part of the patient.  Those in the throes of this psychiatric disorder experience very typical delusions that the place of a friend, family member or even their spouse is taken over by an impostor. That is why Capgras syndrome is also called ‘Imposter Syndrome’

This is not a well-known disorder, yet it is important to take the symptoms seriously and get professional help.  Capgras syndrome can have a debilitating effect on a person’s life as well as that of their loved ones.

Named after French psychiatrist Joseph Capgras who diagnosed Capgras syndrome in 1923, it is still not easily understood and can be linked to many other underlying health conditions.  The neurological underpinnings have been unraveling only in the last couple of decades.

Definition – Capgras Syndrome

The branch of medicine defines Capgras Syndrome as a psychological condition in which the victim harbors an irrational idea/belief that a loved one has been supplanted by an imposter. Capgras syndrome, therefore, is classified under Delusional Misidentification Syndromes(DMSs).

It is also possible for people with this syndrome to believe that their pets are impostors as well. It may be an irrational belief for most but not for the person suffering from it. Although this condition can afflict anyone, statistics show that Capgras is more common in women than men.

What causes Capgras Syndrome?

There are several theories about the cause of this syndrome. Some researchers are of the opinion that Capgras syndrome may arise due to problems in the brain like cerebral dysfunction, atrophy or even lesions.

It could be a combination of cognitive and physical changes leading to a feeling of disconnection, according to many experts. Some others think that it could be a problem related to errors in perception, information processing, etc. which coincide with missing/damaged memories. According to a 2015 research study on Capgras Syndrome and hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalance seemed like a possible problem that could trigger this in conjunction with other cognitive issues.

Some of the overriding causes of Capgras Syndrome are

Dementia: Reportedly, Capgras Syndrome commonly occurs in people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since both of these conditions affect memory, they can also alter a victim’s sense of reality.

Schizophrenia: Episodes of Capgras is highly possible among those who suffer from schizophrenia combined with paranoid hallucinations.

Brain injury: In rare instances, lesions caused by brain injuries can also trigger Capgras syndrome. This is common in brain injuries that occur in the back of the brain, in the right hemisphere. This is the area in which facial recognition processing takes place.

Epilepsy: Victims of this condition may also experience symptoms of Capgras on a rare occasion.

Parkinson’s Disease: Patients battling Parkinson’s disease (PD) or other forms of neurodegenerative disorders such as Lewy body dementia (LBD) may portray psychosis and delusions much like symptoms of Capgras. This is especiallyso during advanced stages of PD and LBD. Emotional responses appear intense after seeing the faces of people very close to them.

Who is at risk of getting Capgras Syndrome?

Though it seems like more women than men have Capgras, it is quite possible for any person to suffer from it, regardless of age or gender. There have been rare instances of children suffering from Capgras syndrome as well.  Since it is quite uncommon, the statistics are given below offers an insight into the rates/percentages of people getting sick with this illness.

  • Nearly,1.3% of people around the world are diagnosed with the condition.
  • Reportedly, 1.8% of women and 0.9% of men in the general population have this disorder, diagnosed or not.

It is important to know that not everyone who has age-related memory loss or diseases will suffer from Capgras Syndrome; it is, however, one of the most common reasons for its occurrence. People who suffer from paranoid hallucinatory schizophrenia have the highest risk of getting sick with it.

Symptoms of Capgras Syndrome

Symptoms of this condition are baffling and disheartening for the affected as well as for the people around them. Unlike other mental health conditions that affect and even hamper normal life of a victim, someone with Capgras looks and behaves normally most of the time except around the person who they believe is the imposter.

Key symptomatic pointers are:

  • One obvious symptom is when a person begins to believe, their close/loved one is a doppelgänger or replaced by someone else. They will acknowledge that the “imposter” looks like the person they replace and they are able to see through their disguise. This causes a lot of stress and anxiety and as a result, a change in their behavior.
  • In the rare case, violence towards the “imposter” is quite likely but not always.
  • Fear, confusion, and anxiety are more likely to take place in the person with Capgras.
  • Obsessive behavior in the form of wanting to find the “real” person and exposing the “imposter” will likely take place. This may lead to additional stress, arguments, and anger between the affected person and those around him/her.

Types of Delusions and conditions related to Capgras Syndrome

Over the last 8 decades, mental health professionals are facing huge challenges with diagnosing and treating mental conditions involving delusions and misidentification. This has been mostly due to a lack of information or understanding that in turn, has presented issues to professionals in this area. Some other issues that are similar in nature and listed under the delusional misidentification syndromes (DMS) are:

  • Fregoli Syndrome
  • Cotards’ Syndrome
  • Intermetamorphosis

Experts are still undecided about including DMS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV).  In the last couple of decades, studies on brain imaging have indicated that patients with DMS do have identifiable brain lesions, especially in the frontoparietal region. Working memory deficits due to abnormal brain function has a huge role in DMS.

Complications of Capgras Syndrome

One cannot overrule a rare yet extremely dangerous complication of Capgras syndrome on victims that can jeopardize the safety of people close to them. Patients grappling with this illness can also turn homicidal on occasion and attack their own family members. It is good for caregivers/family members to comprehend the ramifications of this condition on the victims and perhaps even prepare for the worst.

Diagnosis of Capgras Syndrome

Diagnosing Capgras Syndrome is tricky as the symptoms are similar to other mental illnesses.  Another reason is that it is rare and not well understood.

Diagnosis is done primarily by evaluating a patient psychologically. Most often than not, family or friends of the patient are the ones who bring symptoms to a doctor’s attention – especially if they are the ones considered to be an imposter.

Treatment options for Capgras Syndrome

Capgras Syndrome is a condition that is just as painful for the victim as well as for their friends and family.  Understanding the condition and knowing that symptoms such as hallucinations, anxiety, and others can occur due to changes in the brain will help caregivers become more sympathetic.

Unfortunately, it is a condition with poor treatment options and overall outcomes. Currently, there are no set treatment plans for Capgras Syndrome. Research is still pending but, there are a few ways to relieve the symptoms of this illness. Doctors try to treat the underlying cause of Capgras Syndrome as far as possible.

Possible treatment methods include:

  • Mental health professionals address the underlying cause. For example, if a person with schizophrenia experiences symptoms that indicate Capgras Syndrome, medicating the patient for schizophrenia can definitely improve Capgras symptoms.
  • If Capgras occurs in a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, then there are just a few treatment options.
  • The most effective way to treat a person is to create a happy and welcoming environment. It is important to make the victims feel safe and secure.
  • Another method is validation therapy that involves acknowledging the delusions and not rejecting them. This helps in reducing panic and anxiety that every person with Capgras syndrome experiences.
  • Doctors also prescribe drugs of the class, cholinesterase inhibitors that can boost the ability of neurotransmitters. This can improve patient outcomes in the area of memory and judgment
  • Anti-psychotic drugs, especially for victims of schizophrenia, can help alleviate typical Capgras symptoms.
  • Surgery in case of brain trauma or lesions can bring relief to symptoms of Capgras
  • Therapy is also a good treatment method. Therapists can help patients understand what is going on in their head and come to terms with it. Therapy plays a key role in helping patients work through their thoughts, ideas, etc. This is important as it helps them interact with people who are the cause of their distress as “impostors”.
  • Teaching patient new ways to communicate and interact with family and friends is an important step towards managing symptoms and may even help recover from this condition.
  • Taking care of Capgras Syndrome victims can be a challenge, physically and emotionally. This is even tougher if the person who is caring for the victim is thought to be an impostor.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Make an effort to understand their reality and show empathy. This will offer an insight into their world and how terrifying it is for them.
  • Make them feel safe in their environment.
  • Keep open communication with patients.
  • Try and be positive while communicating with victims
  • If it is possible, make the “imposter” go away. If you are the “impostor” and the primary caregiver, hand over the responsibility to another person until the incident is resolved.
  • Ensure timely medical assistance this condition is causing more distress to a person already dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  • Employ sound as a cue to announce your presence.
  • Use tact in dealing with volatile behavior and work towards diffusing aggression
Don'ts
  • Startle them as it could trigger stress. Instead, call out to them and make sure they are aware of your presence whenever possible.
  • Argue or try to correct them – this is frustrating and can cause more anxiety, leading to a breakdown.
  • Tease or ridicule their fears. This may only worsen their symptoms.
  • Get temperamental with patients, even though they are tough to handle

 

 

 

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These are the top foods to increase your hemoglobin count It is important to add iron-rich foods into your diet in order to increase hemoglobin. Deficiency of hemoglobin could…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Threatened abortion
A few facts about threatened abortion A threatened miscarriage indicates an early pregnancy loss. Look out for symptoms like bleeding, vaginal discharge, and pain.
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
blood elements analysis
Vitamin Profile Your doctor will recommend you undergo the vitamin profile test if you are showing signs of either vitamin…
Splenda
Splenda Splenda is an artificial sweetener derived from Stevia plant extracts. It is low in calories and a popular…
Surgery or home-remedy; what is the right way to treat a burn The treatment of a burn injury depends on its severity. You can save a life by offering the…
6 arguments in favour of glucosamine and where can you find it Studies have shown that glucosamine works by preventing the breakdown of cartilage of the joints. This is usually…
Diabetes blood test
Diabetic Profile The diabetic profile is a set of tests used for testing and monitoring the various kinds of Diabetes…
Shilajit: A miracle Himalayan herb for an active and happy life The Himalayas contain more wonders than you thought. Shilajit is a miracle herb that is widely used in…
top 10 deadliest diseases
What are the top 10 deadliest diseases and what is causing them? What are the largest killers of human lives across the globe? Which diseases are the most fatal ones?…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
anti-chlamydia antibody tets
Anti-Chlamydia Antibody -IgG Test Anti-Chlamydia Antibody - IgG test is performed by collection of urine or genital fluids as sample for testing…
gout diet purines
Gout Diet : Get relief from painful joints by eating these foods Are you a victim of this painful condition? Are medications providing only short relief? Find a list of…
The science behind daith piercing: Can it really cure migraine? Since the ear has several pressure points, it is believed that daith piercing activates the vagus nerve and…
Jack in the box fast food
Jack In the Box : The perils of surging fast food culture in the USA Jack in the Box - How a culture of fast-food can clog your arteries, weaken your heart, fatten…
angiography
Angiography Angiography is a diagnostic tool used to determine the narrowing or blockage in the arteries and veins supplying…
Ultrasound
Abdominal Ultrasound An abdominal ultrasound is used to visualize the organs inside your abdominal cavity including the liver, spleen, gall…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
leptospira Igm test
Leptospira-IgM Test A Leptospira-IgM test is a blood test which is carried out to detect anti-Leptospira IgM antibody. Leptospirosis is…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
Inhale oxygen, exhale worries: The top breathing exercises and how to perform them Performing the breathing exercise is like becoming mindful of how you breathe.  Here is a list of breathing…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…
Vaginoplasty - Post-op care
Vaginoplasty Know more about vaginoplasty, the procedure, post-operative care, best options for treatment, cost, and possible risks. %%sitename%% %
Sputum test Sputum test is a commonly used diagnostic tool that is used to examine the presence of pathogens in…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
cystoscopy
Cystoscopy Cystoscopy is a procedure to check the health of the urethra and the bladder. The procedure is also…
improve digestion weight loss
Power up your gut: 8 proven steps on how to improve your digestion Did you know you have a colony of bacteria in your gut that help you in digesting food?…
APL IgM Test
Antiphospholipid Antibody(APL)-IgM test The antiphospholipid antibodies are specific protein in the body directed against the phospholipids. It is used to detect…
lipoprotein A
Lipoprotein (A) Test Lipoprotein (A) test is used to measure and monitor the levels of LDL(Low-Density Lipoprotein) in the bloodstream in…
stain blood
Blood in your stool Know the reason for blood in your stool, toilet bowl or tissue and the important steps to take…
What is the right way to take a pregnancy test? A pregnancy test is undertaken to determine if you have conceived. A home pregnancy test is the most…
Is bronchitis contagious? And how to prevent this infection? It is acute bronchitis that is contagious which means you can contract it from another person or you…
fitness routine fun
10 fantastic ways to make your fitness routine more fun! Are you too bored to exercise? Do you avoid gym cause it's too monotonous? Looking for fun and…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does our poop turn…
cystatin C
Cystatin C Test Cystatin C is a specific single-chain protein that is found in body fluids and is a biomarker for…
hYdroxycut pills
Hydroxycut: How safe are these so-called weight loss supplements? Hydroxycut is a blend of several different ingredients formulated to promote weight loss; powered by a key weight…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
Anti-Inflammatory foods: 18 foods to a disease-free you Anti-inflammatory foods are the foods which are known to reduce the inflammation as well as the pain from…
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
Carb Cycling: Weighing the pros vs the cons of this diet routine Completely discarding carbs from your life will do you more harm than good. Read more about carb cycling,…

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