Capgras Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Capgras Syndrome

Capgras syndrome is a psychological disorder. This syndrome is also known as imposter syndrome or Capgras delusion. This syndrome refers to the belief that a known or recognized person has been replaced by an imposter. An impostor spouse might be accused of being the spouse of the accuser. Experiencing delusions and being accused of impersonating can be upsetting both for the person experiencing it and the person accusing them.

Delusional people may believe animals, objects, or even an entire house is a hoax. People of any age can be affected by imposter syndrome, but more women suffer from it than men. It may also affect children in very rare circumstances.

Read: Confabulation

What is capgras syndrome?

Capgras syndrome occurs when the person with the syndrome believes that someone else is taking the place of someone they know. Additionally, they may believe inanimate objects or even pets are impostors.

Joseph Capgras first described the syndrome in 1923, with the help of a colleague. Delusional misidentification syndromes (DMSs) are a group of conditions that are related to delusions.

Psychological conditions such as this can affect anyone, but women are more likely to experience them than men.

Both the person affected by capgras syndrome and their loved ones can find the condition very disturbing. Those who witness the syndrome should seek medical advice.

Read: Vascular Dementia

Capgras syndrome vs. Imposter syndrome

Capgras syndrome is sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome by some experts. People who feel like they’re not capable of doing what they’re doing are referred to as having “imposter syndrome.”

Capgras syndrome is sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome because people who suffer from the condition believe their loved ones have been replaced by impostors. An actual delusion is the symptom of Capgras, while an internal belief about oneself constitutes imposter syndrome.

Causes of capgras delusion

The most common cause of capgras syndrome is Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This affects memory and can alter your perception of reality.

Imposter syndrome is usually caused by schizophrenia, especially paranoid hallucinatory schizophrenia. Delusions can also occur due to schizophrenia.

Imposter syndrome can also be caused by cerebral lesions caused by brain injuries. Our brains process facial recognition in the right hemisphere, so most of these injuries occur there. It is also possible to have capgras delusion if you have epilepsy.

It is thought to be caused by several factors. Researchers have hypothesized that imposter syndrome is caused by brain damage, atrophy, or lesions. It’s believed that there are physical and cognitive changes that contribute to it, causing feelings of loneliness. It’s believed by some to be a problem with the way information is processed or an inaccurate perception, which is associated with damaged or missing memories.

Read: Memory Loss

Capgras syndrome symptoms

Both the person affected and those around them may find capgras syndrome symptoms perplexing and frustrating.

The person with capgras syndrome acts normally around the person or thing they believe to be an imposter, unlike most mental health conditions, which tend to impact many aspects of a person’s life.

In capgras syndrome, the most conspicuous symptom is the belief that a close friend or family member is a double.

People may acknowledge that the person who is assumed to be the imposter appears exactly like the real person, but they believe they are able to see through the “disguise.” These kinds of beliefs can cause anxiety in some people and lead to a change in their behavior.

Occasionally, an “imposter” will become violent towards the person, though not always. They are more likely to seem nervous or afraid.

It is possible for someone with capgras syndrome to become obsessed with finding the “real” person or with catching the “imposter”. The person affected and those around them may feel increased stress, anger, and arguments as a result of these events.

Read: Mixed Dementia

Imposter syndrome cases

Capgras syndrome has been reported in the following cases:

One man, when face-to-face with his parents, was unable to recognize them. Yet when he called them, he recognized them effortlessly.

Perhaps there was a disconnect between visualization and facial recognition which led to this disorder in this case. It did not affect other methods of identification, such as voice recognition.

Mothers were wrongly led to believe in another case that their daughters had been removed by Child Protective Services and replaced by imposters. Capgras syndrome was diagnosed and medication prescribed, but the mother was unable to validate her daughter’s identity.

In contrast to many cases of capgras syndrome, cases involving children are rare. Instead, Capgras delusion usually affects a close family member, such as a spouse, parent, or sibling. “The imposter” threatened the child’s mother, so the child was taken from her care.

An elderly man 59 years old with various symptoms, including deteriorated speech, restlessness, and a preoccupation with personal hygiene, suffered from several symptoms over a number of years. It became apparent that his wife was a double and he would spend time searching for her.

However, he did not act angry or aggressively, claiming her to be double and addressing her in a doubtful, enquiring manner. His ability to recognize others is not difficult.

Read: Short-Term Memory Loss

Treatment of capgras delusion

At the moment, capgras syndrome patients do not have a prescribed treatment plan since more research is required. However, there are alternative treatments that may help alleviate symptoms.

These treatments aim to solve the problem from the root. As an example, treating schizophrenia can improve capgras syndrome in someone with poor symptom control in schizophrenia. There is no cure for capgras syndrome, but limited treatment options exist if it occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.

The best way to treat this syndrome is by creating a friendly, supportive environment where people affected by it feel safe.

The validation therapy may be used in some facilities. This treatment supports the delusion rather than rejects it. The person suffering from the delusion can calm his or her anxiety and panic.

Some people may find that reality orientation techniques are helpful. Moreover, the caregiver reminds the person frequently about current time and location, as well as of major life events, moves, or any other significant changes in the person’s life.

Treatment will focus on treating the underlying cause of imposter syndrome. Some examples are:

  • There are medications available that boost brain function in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, including cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Schizophrenia can also be treated with antipsychotics and psychotherapy
  • If necessary, surgery can be performed for brain tumors or head injuries

Read: Catatonic Schizophrenia

How to care for someone with capgras syndrome

You may feel like an imposter if you’re caring for someone with capgras delusion. Here are some ways you can help someone with capgras syndrome:

  • Enter their world whenever you can. If you try to comprehend how frightening it must be for them, it can help.
  • Do not try to correct them or argue with them.
  • Make them feel safe by whatever means you can. Ask them what they need if you’re not sure what to do.
  • Respect their feelings.
  • Ask the “imposter” to leave the room if possible. Allow someone else to stay with the patient if you are the caregiver.
  • Listen to the sounds. You can make sure that your appearance is the first thing they register if you know they are susceptible to capgras delusion. If possible, let them know you are delighted to see them.

Read: Disorganization Schizophrenia

Mental and physical conditions associated with capgras syndrome

There are several conditions associated with capgras syndrome. Schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder is the most common. Dementia can also cause this behavior.

This syndrome may coexist with the following conditions:

  • Paranoid schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Brain injury

It is estimated that 16% of Alzheimer’s patients suffer from imposter syndrome. A staggering 28% of individuals who suffer from Lewy body dementia have Capgras disease.

Dangers of capgras delusion

According to a review published in 2019, Capgras delusion is associated with aggressive behavior. However, the association between the condition and aggressive behavior remains significant despite the majority of case reports in that study not showing a propensity for violence.

Violent or aggressive behavior against “imposters” is associated with these risk factors:

  • Delusions that have existed for a long time
  • People with schizophrenia or dementia often display aggressive behavior
  • Substance use
  • Isolation or withdrawal from social interaction

There is also a link between Capgras syndrome and self-harm.

It can be difficult for the individual and their family to maintain employment and participate fully in society while suffering from capgras delusions.


It is possible for individuals with capgras syndrome never to fully recover. The caregiver or family member can help reduce anxiety and fear in a loved one.

Anyone experiencing above symptoms should seek medical assistance immediately.

2 thoughts on “Capgras Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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