He’d fallen in love. He spent what felt like a lifetime trying to find her. He danced with partners who seemed to glide to different rhythms until he found her. In his mind, she was perfect.

Their life together had been all that fairytales are made of— bliss, romance, passion. Still, they had their fair share of fights, grievances, and trust issues. They shared a son together and when everything was going well, it was picture perfect.

He and his partner knew each other inside and out. He knew just how to make her morning coffee and she knew just how many buttons she could push before he reached his breaking point. They danced together, in sync, gliding in and out of nostalgia and future dreams.

But one morning, the music stopped abruptly. He leaned in to wake his wife and her reaction startled him. “Who are you” she screamed and violently pushed him away. “What have you done with my husband?! Why are you in his clothes?!?!” Laughing within the confusion, he jokingly played into what he assumed was a silly game. Over and over, though, she accused him of being an imposter and demanded to know what he had done with her husband. She frantically screamed for help. What at first seemed playful soon turned scary. He quickly realized this wasn’t a joke.

In his wife’s mind, for a reason he could not understand, her husband was a different person. Looks wise, *they (her husband and his “imposter”) were identical, but her emotional reaction to him was gone. Psychologically, she was convinced he was an imposter. A clone. A double.

She lashed out and begged for her beloved. He explained himself to no end but still was met with eyes that searched every part of him. His mind raced as he tried to understand and de-escalate the situation. Their son who came running into their room after hearing the screams, was frightened by his Mom’s irrational behavior… and though her beloved husband tried hard not to let it show, he was frightened too.

••••••••

The Mind Playing Tricks: Capgras Syndrome

Capgras Syndrome is a psychological disorder where one believes their loved one has been replaced by an identical imposter. Typically it is someone very close to them but, sometimes they can even confuse themselves as an imposter. Some even confuse their home or objects as clones!! Others have reported their pets as identical doubles. It seems that in their brain, seeing a loved one doesn’t register emotionally as it had in the past. The brain is not operating as it should.

Those suffering from Capgras Syndrome are left filling in the blanks with a delusion. Hence, the fabrication of an imposter. This isn’t specific to the brains visual input either. We know this because hearing impaired people have also fallen victim to this disorder. For them, the voices of their loved ones begin to sound different.

For sufferers of Capgras Syndrome, it is the lack of emotional connection that makes their delusions so extreme. This isn’t just forgetting someone’s name. This is the inability to recognize someone(s) very close to them and their mind convincing them a power has replaced their loved one(s) with clones. Capgras Syndrome is a lack of emotional recall coupled with torturous delusion.

They wholeheartedly believe, even with no facts or logic to support it, that their loved one(s) have been replaced. The delusion very often leads to deep paranoia, emotional turmoil and sometimes violent tendencies. For some, they rationalize that murdering the imposter is the only way to expose the truth. Click To Tweet

Victims of Capgras Syndrome are convinced of the delusion and are wrought with anxiety over the ”disappearance” of their loved one(s). They are paranoid that the imposter knows things only their beloved could know and convince themselves that this imposter must have tortured this private information out of their beloved. They feel they need to expose and escape the imposter(s). This leads to a lost sense of self. No one is taking them seriously. Everyone is ignoring their claims. Everyone is telling them what they are seeing with their own eyes (or ears as is the case with the hearing impaired) is wrong and couldn’t be farther from the truth!! Still, the entire time, they feel in their mind that they are only trying to reunite with their lost loved one.

While victims of Capgras Syndrome clearly seem out of touch to others, they themselves feel as though they are keenly perceptive. They often notice subtle differences between their beloved and their imposter. They may claim the imposter is more joyful, a better cook, has more wrinkles or longer hair than their beloved. It is lost on them that maybe, just maybe their loved one was simply in a good mood or hadn’t shaved in awhile.

••••••

His wife obsessively tried to solve this mystery which turned her life upside down. Depression set in. After some months, her son was replaced by a clone as well. She frantically clung to hope that she could solve this mystery and be reunited with her loved ones again. The pain and confusion haunted her.

While she wildly spun theories within her upside down world, her loved ones tried to uncover the mystery of her suddenly malfunctioning brain. While doctors couldn’t precisely say what caused the breakdown, several theories arose.

In her case, a neurodegenerative disease was likely the cause. (For others, it’s caused by certain brain trauma, like an automobile accident.) A few neuroscientists suggested it was due to a disconnect between the fusiform face area and the amygdala. Another neuroscientist explained that she seemed to have a faulty memory management system. Instead of accessing existing memories, her brain created new memory files each time. A part of her memory was corrupt. Her brain was playing tricks on her.

In her mind, there were no longer any emotional attachments or reactions to her loved ones. Without the emotional arousal, her loved ones were strangers to her. No emotions were stirred within her when she set her eyes on them. Deep down, she sensed a feeling of familiarity but with no emotional component attached, she was left convinced of her delusion. This disconnect rattled her. Her brain, no matter how hard she tried, could not recognize her loved ones at any level.

He spent what felt like a lifetime trying to find her and now, she spends a lifetime searching for him.

capgras syndrome illustration by bastianwien

graphic: @bastianwien

For more info on mental health awareness check out: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/

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