Capgras syndrome, which is also known as Capgras Delusion Syndrome, is a disorder in which a person holds a delusion that a friend, spouse, parent, or other close family member has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor. Under the DSM IV the Capgras delusion is classified as a ‘delusional misidentification’ syndrome, a class of delusional beliefs that involves the misidentification of people, places, or objects. It can occur in acute, transient, or chronic forms.
Although the delusion is most common in patients who have a previous diagnosis of schizophrenia, it can also occur in people who have had a brain injury and those who suffer with dementia.
What is an example of Capgras Syndrome?
Here is a basic case study of a person who is suffering with Capgras Syndrome:
62 year old female lives with husband of 40 years. She has no previous medical history and takes no medications. She is involved in a car accident in which she suffers a concusion with a minor loss of consciousness (otherwise fine after the event). On her way home, her husband comes by the hospital and she is unable to recognise him as her husband. Does he look the same? Yes. Does he speak the same? Yes. Is he your husband? No, definitely not.
In this case, the Capgras Syndrome was an acute, post head injury event, and not a longterm syndrome.
How is Capgras Syndrome relevant to medicine?
Capgras Syndrome becomes relevant to medicine because it identifies other potential causes of what may otherwise appear to be schizophrenia or dementia. Capgras Syndrome can be longterm, but can also be a shortlived symptom after an event. For the diagnosis of Capgras Syndrome to be considered by a Medical Practitioner, a CT and MRI must first be performed to rule out any underlying organic pathologies.
How is Capgras Syndrome relevant to paramedics?
The relevance of Capgras Syndrome to paramedics is limited to the fact that as some stage in our career we may attend people who are suffering with this disorder. We must be wary that the condition is potentially secondary to organic causes, such as head injuries, endocrine disorders, drugs, or acute psychosis.