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.

Facts

  • Capgras Syndrome is one among the strangest mental disorders that need extensive research to know the exact reasons for its occurrence
  • Excessive anxiety and panic exacerbate other symptoms of Capgras Syndrome
  • Capgras Syndrome can be described as a wide gap between what the eye sees and the brain perceives and the emotional response to the situation
  • No complete cure is yet available for Capgras Syndrome

Facts

  • Capgras Syndrome is aided  with new medical technologies that are proving quite useful in making a diagnosis
  • If the exact location of brain lesions causing this condition can be positioned, then treatment will become a lot easier.

Facts

  • The visually impaired can also experience Capgras Syndrome
  • Support groups for Capgras syndrome can go a long way in improving care as well as reducing stress for those caring for patients
  • Scientists are of the opinion that heredity predisposes risk of Capgras. If such a risk already exists, it can be triggered with dynamic changes in the victims’ environment.

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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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Carrageenan: How a simple seaweed extract could better your gut health & immunity Eat more ice cream to prevent cold and flu? –With carrageenan you get one simple seaweed extract that…
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?…
Jackfruit: Slice your way into higher immunity, better digestion, & more… Native to the South East Asia, the jackfruit is a fruit brimming with thousands of health benefits. Discover…
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…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
colposcopy
Colposcopy Colposcopy is a simple, quick and non- invasive diagnostic tool to look closely inside the vulva, vagina, and…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
fructosamine test
Fructosamine Test A fructosamine test measures blood sugar glucose content. Fructosamine level can indicate blood sugar level in past 2-3…
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…
nature health benefits
Green Healing: The amazing health benefits of being in nature You have no idea what sitting in a closed room does to your body and mind.Can a stroll…
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…
dandelion weight loss
Caralluma Fimbriata: How to eat this cactus to lose weight Caralluma fimbriata is a miracle cactus that can be safely consumed by most for losing weight and boosting…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
Atkins diet weight loss
Atkins Diet: The right steps to carb control that can help you lose those pounds fast The Atkins diet is a high fat, low-carb diet with proven weight loss benefits that is flexible enough…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
chloride test
Chloride Test A chloride test of the blood checks the level of chloride in body, an important factor governing the…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
Love tea, hate tannins? Rooibos tea is just what you need The market is brimming with a multitude of herbal teas. But what makes rooibos tea (or red bush)…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
reflexology massage
Top reasons why you should go for a reflexology massage today Reflexology involves the application of pressure to your feet and hands to encourage self-healing. Could this be beneficial…
valproic acid test
Valproic Acid Test Valproic acid test is performed to generally check for psychiatric and even neurological conditions such as bipolar disease…
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
sodium blood test
Blood Sodium Test A blood sodium test measures the amount of sodium (an important electrolyte) in your body. It is also…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
Quinine: How gin and tonic came to be known as a potent health elixir The discovery of quinine-containing tree bark is sometimes considered the most serendipitous medical discovery of the 17th century.
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…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
C-Reactive Protein Test A CRP or c-reactive protein blood test is an important diagnostic tool used to determine the risk of…
ANTIPHOSPHOLIPIDANTIBODY(APL)_IgG
Antiphospholipid (APL) antibody-IgG The Antiphospholipid Antibody testing is a blood test used to determine an autoimmune disorder called Antiphospholipid syndrome linked…
Strep throat pain
Anti-Streptolysin-O Test The ASO or Anti-Streptolysin-O is a blood test designed to check for the presence of streptococcus bacterial infection…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…