Ever imagine how you would feel when one day your partner no longer recognizes you but instead telling you to get out of the house because you are just an impostor trying to copy everything his husband is. And then later it will be other members of the family, could be the mom and dad, siblings, children, and even pets trying to deceive her.
What Is Capgras Syndrome?
In the movie, Invasion of the Body Snatcher, a 1956 science fiction film which talks about an extraterrestrial invasion, where aliens are capable of duplicating humans, adapts physical characteristics, memories, and personalities but never emotions.
Research shows that impostor syndrome is common in high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their successes and instead attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability. — Lauren Feiner, PsyD
There are cases reported by some psychiatrists where families of their patients report delusional behaviors, where the patient thought members of the families were just copycats of themselves, even sometimes feeling where the patient himself is not actually himself and also insist that they are not in their own homes. It may sound untrue like the science fiction movie, but these are real people with real disorder our doctors are dealing with.
Capgras syndrome is a condition where the patient believes that impersonators replaced those people close to him. A delusional misidentification of people, places, or objects, and it is hard to convince them that it is not true. During attacks, the patient can feel severely anxious and fearful with anger outbursts at times when you seem not to believe in what he is saying.
Capgras syndrome is said to occur either in acute, transient, or chronic forms.
Who Can Be Affected By The Disorder?
People diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and also those who had suffered a brain injury can show symptoms of Capgras delusion. Also, those with dementia, neurodegenerative disease (especially in old age) are also reported to show signs of such condition. It can also be associated with hypothyroidism, diabetes, and migraine. It occurs most commonly in women than men with a ratio of 3:2 according to The Psychiatric, Psychogenic, and Somatopsychic Disorders Handbook.
People who suffer from the Capgras Delusion have, as a result of their brain damage, lost the connection between the visual face recognition area in the right temporal lobe and the area of the brain that provides the emotional response to that face. — Jenni Ogden Ph.D.
Signs And Symptoms?
A man who had a car accident two years ago who landed on the high-way headfirst showed signs of Capgras syndrome weeks after the crash. He was in a coma, and when he regained consciousness, his mental condition seemed well except for the delusion of not recognizing his own mother, sometimes his father, and even their own home. He thought that the woman who was cooking food for him looks like his mother, but was firm that she was not her mother. Because of this ongoing condition, the parents sought help from their doctor. The patient told the doctor that he thinks these man and woman in the house are not his mother and father, so he does not expect anything from them as he would with his own parents.
Another case is a woman who started seeing a double of her husband. Then one day after coming home from work, she was looking for her husband and is insisting that the man standing in front of her was not her husband but an impostor.
People experiencing the delusion may display aggression, anger, and fear feeling that they are not in their own home, and not with the people they are supposed to be with.
A study suggested that brain-injured individuals could have suffered from prosopagnosia, a condition where the patient is unable to identify faces intentionally.
Another article published in 1990 suggests that patients with Capgras syndrome possibly have mirror image where they have an intact ability to recognize faces but might impair their ability to create automatic arousal of emotions to familiar faces.
Many studies are being continuously conducted to the present in order to unravel the mystery behind this disorder. In fact, Dr. Ramachandran, a known neuroscientist, published papers on this case and even put it in print in his book Phantom In the Brain and is giving talks about it. He also theorized that Capgras syndrome could be a disconnection between the temporal cortex of the brain (responsible for face recognition) and the limbic system (connected with emotions) since the patient can recognize the face but could not feel emotions.
Chris Fiacconi, from the University of Western Ontario looked at what happens when people believe that someone they’re close to – usually a spouse – has been replaced by a double. — Peter Toohey Ph.D.
Patients who seek help for Capgras syndrome are treated with individual therapy to address the delusion. Therapeutic empathy without questioning the patient’s delusion has to be displayed with determination. Therapists also use reality testing. Some doctors have also prescribed antipsychotic and other therapeutic drugs which have shown to be a success in improving the patient’s condition.
How Can You Help?
It may be hard and painful to accept the fact that your beloved family member (wife, husband, sibling, parents) or friends cannot recognize you and may even push you away. There may be times where you may no longer tolerate how he behaves, but you got to understand him now more than ever. It is the time where he needed you to be supportive and empathic, and it is essential that you provide a safe and comfortable environment for the patient to lessen his anxiety.