Capgras syndrome: symptoms, causes and treatment
There are disorders that, by their nature or their rarity, are very little known to ordinary people. One of them is the Capgras syndrome , that today we will define and study.
What is Capgras Syndrome
The person suffering from the Capgras syndrome suffers a delusional ideation , based on the fact that their loved ones have been replaced by double impostors posing as them . It is not exactly that there are difficulties when it comes to recognizing faces, as is the case in prosopagnosia, since patients with Capgras Syndrome recognize the facial features that technically define people and therefore do not have problems to the Time to visualize the faces. However, they interpret the presence of certain people in a delirious way, believing that they are impostors with a perfect disguise .
From one day to the next, patients with Capgras syndrome claim that some of their loved ones (normally the couple, a close relative, or even coworkers) have been replaced by identical doubles that behave in the same way, although they present certain different aspects.
At this moment, the emotional bond that existed between them breaks down and thus appears fear, rejection and avoidance. They are not able to know why, for what and who has replaced their loved one, but even if this idea is meaningless, they assume that it is true, and they will interpret all kinds of facts and actions as signs that they are surrounded by impostors .
In short, patients they can recognize the faces of others but not connect them with the emotional meaning that they possess, so that they feel that there is a person with the same face and features as another and at the same time they do not know how to point out a concrete and coherent reason why that individual is not who he claims to be.
History of this rare syndrome
In 1923, the psychiatrist Jean Marie Joseph Capgras He described this syndrome for the first time under the name of "illusion of doubles" or "illusion of sosies": the patient was a 50-year-old woman who suffered delusions. On the one hand, he thought he belonged to royalty and, on the other, that people around him had been replaced by doubles, since there was a secret society that was responsible for kidnapping people and the appearance of their doubles.
The disorder arose from not overcoming the death of his son a few months old, and that's when he began to claim that he had been kidnapped and replaced. After this, she returns to give birth to two pairs of twins, and of them only one girl survived. After this, her idea of the existence of the network in charge of kidnapping and substitution became stronger, coming to believe that she herself had a double abroad while she was admitted.
Causes of Capgras syndrome
The exact causes of this syndrome are not known, but The most accepted theory is the disconnection between the visual recognition system and the limbic system , in charge of emotional processing.
The visual system processes the stimuli through two differentiated ways: on the one hand, the ventral path connects the visual cortex with structures responsible for the recognition of objects and, on the other hand, the dorsal pathway connects the visual cortex with limbic structures, which provide the emotional and affective meaning. Therefore, it could be said that there is a disconnection in the dorsal pathway, since the patient recognizes the relative visually, but does not associate any emotion to it.
Comorbidity with other disorders
This syndrome is linked to other psychotic disorders, such as paranoid schizophrenia, psychotic depression or other delusional disorders. It can also appear alongside other diseases, such as brain tumors, cranioencephalic lesions and dementias, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, given that neurological alterations of this type rarely affect only a very limited type of cerebral function.
Because Capgras Syndrome is rare, there are not many studies on validated and effective treatments . The most used and useful treatment in the medium term is composed of the combination of psychotropic drugs and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
As for psychotropic drugs, the following types can be used:
- TO nypsychotics , which are used to combat the delusional idea present in the individual.
- Anticonvulsants , which are used as support if necessary.
- Other drugs chords to the pathology that presents.
If we focus on psychological therapy, we will mainly use the cognitive restructuring. Through this technique, the patient will face his delusional and incoherent idea, making him see that it is his emotional perception that has changed, and that the others have not been replaced. In addition, you will be taught to undertake strategies to compensate for these recognition failures in other ways, and to deal with the anxiety that these errors can cause .
It would also be convenient to carry out an intervention with the family, due to the emotional cost that the disease represents both in the patient and in the family.
The Capgras Syndrome has caused family relationships to deteriorate, causing a distancing between members , and this distancing is not convenient if we want the family to cooperate in the recovery process. For this, we must make sure that they understand the situation and that everything is due to a neurological alteration, and not to the patient's decision making.
Finally, we must take into account if the patient presents a primary pathology from which this syndrome has developed. If so, this pathology would prevail when choosing a treatment and applying it.
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- Ellis, H.D. and Young, A.W. (1990). "Accounting for delusional misidentifications". The British Journal of Psychiatry. 157 (2): 239-248.