What Is Capgras Delusion?
We find comfort in what’s familiar, but imagine for a moment if you will, the head trip of one day feeling like the people you are looking at are not the real, but instead it’s a person impersonating them. Yes, physically on the surface they look like the people you know and their voices sound the same. Upon questioning them, they seem to know all the same things the real individual would, but in your heart you do not believe them to be the real mccoy. This is exactly what those who suffer from what is known as Capgras delusion have to struggle with.
Capgras delusion is a disorder where someone has the idea that pets, friends, parents, spouses, or children have been replaced by identical imposters. It’s a form of Delusional Misidentification Syndrome which is a classification of beliefs involving the misidentification of objects, places, or people. One can be stricken with a one-off episode, sporadic flare ups, or constant nonstop delusions.
Causes have been related to prosopagnosia, which is when people experience a difficulty in recognising faces. This can happen when there is a mix up between the temporal cortex; where faces are recognized and the limbic system which, among a host of other responsibilities, involves how we process “emotion”. It’s essentially halfway between a hallucination and a delusion because it deals with perception.
It can occur due to traumatic injuries or foreign bodies in the brain like tumors, or it can happen organically due to mental illness, chemical imbalances, or the rerouting of neural pathways. The delusions are heightened when pre-existing conditions like Schizophrenia are coupled with an injury to the brain.
It’s difficult to treat Capgras delusion through therapy alone and there is no “catch-all” treatment for the affliction because each person’s delusions manifest uniquely. Doctors use a mixture of drug treatments and “reality testing” to try and put a stop to it. If you wish to read up on reality testing, you can do so here.
It’s not from the plot of a film starring Matt Damon or Liam Neeson, Capgras delusion is a real and terrifying illness that a good number of people suffer from. Some are seeking treatment, but others suffer in silence because they are weary of the stigma associated with mental illness.