Capgras syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia is a mysterious condition that can perplex the person with it and their caregivers. When a loved one begins to exhibit strange and inexplicable behavior, it can be difficult to know what is happening and how to best support them. One such condition that can be baffling for caregivers is Capgras syndrome. Named after the French psychiatrist who first described it in 1923, Capgras syndrome is a rare disorder in which a person believes that someone they know has been replaced by an impostor.
While the cause of Capgras syndrome is not yet known, it is thought to be caused by damage to the brain associated with conditions like Alzheimers disease or Lewy Body Dementia. If you are caring for someone with Capgras syndrome, it is important to understand the symptoms and how best to support them.
What is Capgras syndrome?
Capgras syndrome is a psychiatric disorder that causes delusions. This means that the person affected by Capgras believes that someone they know has been replaced by an exact duplicate. The duplicate may be a real person, or they may be an impostor.
The person with Capgras syndrome may believe that their spouse has been replaced by an impostor, or that their child is not really their own but a lookalike of their real child. They may even believe that they themselves have been replaced by a doppelganger. This can be a very frightening experience for the person affected.
Capgras syndrome is named after Joseph Capgras, who first described the condition in 1923. It is also sometimes known as Capgras’ delusion or Capgras’ illusion.
Do Capgras Syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia go together?
Capgras syndrome affects both children and adults. It is more common in women than men, and it usually starts in adulthood. The National Library of Medicine reports that there is a higher prevalence of Capgras syndrome in patients that have been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Capgras syndrome is rare but it is more frequently seen in people that have Lewy Body Dementia or Alzheimer’s. People with brain conditions like epilepsy or Parkinson’s, or who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or stroke have a higher frequency of Capgras. A research study reports that 81% of all cases are people with dementia or schizophrenia.
What causes Capgras syndrome?
The exact cause of Capgras syndrome is unknown. However, it is thought to be caused by a combination of psychological and physical factors. It is believed that Capgras syndrome is caused by damage to the brain. This damage may be due to a head injury, a stroke, or a tumor. Capgras syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia, as well as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, are seen together fairly frequently.
Certain psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, may also lead to Capgras syndrome. Capgras syndrome has also been linked to drug use and abuse.
When should you seek medical help?
If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of Capgras syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health professional can make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
Capgras can be so frightening that the person that has it may lash out or become violent. If you are fearful at all, contact emergency services or take them to the emergency room at a hospital. Since it is so rare, be prepared to explain all you know about it. With Lewy Body Dementia there are many drugs that patients should not take. Immediately let responders know what drugs are off-limits.
If the symptoms are non-threatening keep your doctor informed and talk with them about medications that might help.
Capgras syndrome can be a sign of a serious mental illness or dementia and can lead to dangerous behaviors. If you are concerned about your mental health, please speak with your doctor or a mental health professional.
With understanding, support, and proper medication, it is sometimes possible to manage the condition and improve the quality of life for both the person affected and their loved ones.
Capgras syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia can be Upsetting to Those that are Involved
Capgras Syndrome can be extremely upsetting for those that witness it. The person that is experiencing the syndrome will believe that their loved ones have been replaced by imposters. This can be a very frightening experience, especially for young children who may not understand what is happening to their parent or loved one.
Adults can find it just as distressing, especially if they are unable to convince the person that they are really their loved ones. It can be a bewildering and confusing experience for everyone involved.
When Capgras syndrome is in full force they might think that the imposter is stealing money from them or that their spouse is cheating on them. It’s incredibly difficult and even though you tell yourself it is not them it is the syndrome, it still makes for a very stressful environment.
Examples of Capgras syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia
People with Capgras syndrome typically experience visual hallucinations, believing that their wife, husband, or child has been replaced by an identical-looking imposter. In some cases, people with Capgras syndrome may also believe that they are living in an identical house or town. It can be extremely distressing for both the person with Capgras syndrome and their loved ones.
With Capgras Syndrome the person is often terrified by the imposter. They might hallucinate that the imposter has physical abnormalities like their eyes bugging out or their body is disfigured or their head is on upside down.
Even family pets might be imposters. The dog might be an imposter dog and they want the dog to prove that they are the real one.
There are even examples of people thinking characters on television are not the real ones. They can be upset because they want the real one back.
There can be multiple imposters too. One example is each imposter might have different jobs or duties they do. For example, there might be one that does his bath, one that fixes his food, and one that exercises with them.
They may want one imposter to contact the police because they caught one of the imposters stealing from them and they want them to go to jail. Wanting to call 911 is not unusual.
Practical Ways to Deal with Capgras Syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia
There is no way to convince someone that there really is no duplicate or imposter. It is often best to play along. If they want one of the imposters to go to jail, you might get someone you know to call him on the phone and pretend to be an investigator and tell them it is all taken care of and they are in jail.
To bring back the “real” person you can try leaving the room and coming back a few minutes later. Try announcing yourself by saying, “hi, this is Mary, I’m back now”.
If they think that they are in an imposter house you can try taking them for a short drive and saying you are going to the real house. Drive a little bit around and then come back announcing that you are at the real house now.
If these ways seem deceptive to you, don’t worry, it is fine to do these things to make the person calmer and more at ease with things.
What treatments are available for Capgras syndrome?
There is no cure for Capgras syndrome. However, some treatments can help manage the condition. These treatments include medication, psychotherapy, and support groups.
Also, be sure to have them checked for a UTI as this can cause hallucinations and Capgras syndrome. Be sure to have them culture it to find the right antibiotic.
There are a variety of medications that can help treat Capgras syndrome. antipsychotic medications are the most commonly used. These medications can help reduce delusions and improve symptoms.
Other medications that may be used include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medications.
There are a few different dementia drugs that can be used to treat Capgras syndrome. These drugs include donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne), and rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs are all cholinesterase inhibitors, which means they help to preserve the levels of a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine. This chemical is important for memory and learning.
Another drug that may be used to treat Capgras syndrome is an antipsychotic medication called aripiprazole (Abilify). This drug works by changing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. It can help to reduce delusions and agitation.
Finally, antidepressant medications called SSRIs may also be helpful in treating Capgras syndrome. These medications work by altering the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that is thought to be involved in mood and emotions.
Support groups can provide emotional support and practical advice for people with Capgras syndrome and their families. These groups can be valuable resources. Caregivers will generally benefit the most from support groups. Knowing they are not alone and getting advice from others can help ease the stress and frustration that comes with a loved one with Capgras syndrome.
If you or someone you know is dealing with Capgras syndrome, there are ways to manage it. First, it’s important to understand that the person with Capgras syndrome is not making things up or lying. They genuinely believe that the imposter is in front of them. Second, try to provide reassurance and support. Remember that they are likely feeling scared and alone. Finally, there are some medications that can help lessen the symptoms of Capgras syndrome.
If you think someone you know might be dealing with this disorder, encourage them to see a mental health professional for an evaluation and help.
If you are caring for someone with Capgras syndrome and Lewy Body Dementia tell us about your experience in the comment section below.