April 8, 2018

"The Capgras syndrome was really the breakage of our bond. It’s horrible because it’s such a disconnect between you and your loved one."

"He would brush me away, thinking I was an intruder or some stranger who was interfering in his life."

There's a strange psychological disorder where you think people you know are other people who only look like them.

WaPo:
Like other Capgras patients, Marty Berman believed his wife had been replaced by an impostor. Others have dismissed loved ones as aliens, robots or clones. A number of cases have involved shocking acts of violence toward the delusional misidentified person. A 2014 report describes two cases of men with Capgras syndrome murdering their own mothers, while a 2015 report details how a Capgras patient with Parkinson’s disease became increasingly violent toward the different “versions” of his wife. One earlier reported case involved a patient who decapitated his “robot” father to find the batteries in his head....
One theory about how this happens is that there's "brain damage that prevents familiar faces from evoking an emotional response" and something else "prevents patients from rejecting the delusional belief."

Whatever the cause of that apparently real condition of a defective brain, I note its resemblance to the common thought in mentally healthy people expressed in statements like, "You're not the man I man I married" and "Who are you?" and "I don't even know who you are anymore." Those are so common they're clichés. And, of course, there are many movies like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" where the same actors are used to play the normal people and the monsters. One reason to make a movie like that is to save money on actors and make up, give the stars more screen time, and concentrate on character, not special effects. But another reason is that it really hits home, this idea that your loved ones, friends, and superiors have been replaced by strangers who might be malevolent. If this were a column in The Washington Post, I'd add a kicker about Donald Trump right here.

34 comments:

Owen said...

One symptom of Capgras is the replacing in discourse of ordinary words with their near-identical simulations, but with typographical errors.

rhhardin said...

Then there's accepting a similar-looking stranger as your loved one.

Dave (1993), The Face of Love (2013)

TerriW said...

But movies are sort of a form of Capgras. I mean, that's not the *real* Luke Skywalker up there; he's been replaced by some dude who calls himself Mark Hamill.

Ralph L said...

On "Criminal Minds", a war hero with this slaughtered his office and his parents. Thermonuclear PTSD.

Fernandistien said...

And all this time I thought the main symptoms of Crapgas syndrome were hard starting and preignition.

Crimso said...

"I mean, that's not the *real* Luke Skywalker up there; he's been replaced by some dude who calls himself Mark Hamill."

So like Robert Downey Jr. when he pretended to be a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude.

Ann Althouse said...

“Then there's accepting a similar-looking stranger as your loved one.”

The Return of Martin Guerre.

Bob Boyd said...

So if one day you find you have the makings of a meadow starting under your hat, get help.

William said...

Mental delusion. That's what they want you to think. The real Althouse would never fall for this gaslighting. And everyone knows that the batteries are nor located in the head but in the abdominal cavity.

Bob Boyd said...

"And everyone knows that the batteries are nor located in the head but in the abdominal cavity."

Not everyone knows that, dude. How was I supposed to know that?

tcrosse said...

Ask me about my Evil Twin

TerriW said...

Some words lend themselves so well to being imprinted incorrectly in your brain, and Crapgas/Capgras just might be their king.

mockturtle said...

My husband had Capgras off and on with his dementia. He would insist I was an impostor with malevolent intent and nothing would dissuade him. It was necessary for me to hide knives and scissors and to always have a means of escape when he became violent. This was both frightening and heartbreaking as we had such a close and loving marriage for so many years. Tragic.

tim maguire said...

Blogger rhhardin said...Then there's accepting a similar-looking stranger as your loved one.

Like at the end of Man in the Iron Mask. Because, frankly, the similar-looking stranger was a better husband.

EDH said...

Capgras syndrome is a psychological condition. It's also known as “imposter syndrome” or “Capgras delusion.” People who experience this syndrome will have an irrational belief that someone they know or recognize has been replaced by an imposter.

So, it's called capgas syndrome or delusion?

I had a similar sensation when meeting up with a childhood friend who had his full dentures replaced after he smiled at me.

I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling and saying "there is something about you, your smile, that is unfamiliar, less sincere. Who are you?"

He's never let me forget it since.

I had always chalked it up as having something to do with evolution and the way primates developed the smile.

How Did Fang-Flashing Evolve into Smiling?

Strange as it may seem, the friendly human smile probably evolved from that much more aggressive display of fangs, said Janice Porteous, a professor of philosophy at Vancouver Island University in Canada who studies the evolution of humor and laughter. The main evidence comes from "missing link" facial expressions made by primates that signify neither "you're my enemy," nor "you're my friend."

A facial expression that originally arose as a scare tactic turned into an admission of fear, thereby indicating non-hostility. The bared teeth said, "I recognize your superior status, so please go easy on me"...

Next, came fang-flashing between friends. "Scientists find that sometimes in higher primates [such as chimpanzees] the expression also gets flashed between equals," Porteous told Life's Little Mysteries. "A couple of equals will have been parted for a long time and then meet and flash it to each other and then embrace. So it moves from showing non-hostility to showing affection or affiliation. It becomes friendly."

And thus, the smile was born. Scientists don't know how long ago it emerged among the great apes.

traditionalguy said...

The Notebook.

EDH said...

Now I'm thinking this primal, evolutionary wiring temporarily replicated this capgas sensation in me rather than it being triggered by some psychological disorder or dementia.

rcocean said...

I've had the same feelings toward Bill Kristol and Jonah Goldberg since Trump came along.

EDH said...

Plus it was probably the subtlety of the change and my slow perception of the change in appearance from subconscious to conscious that that allowed the capgas sensation to briefly fill the gap.

Inga said...

Very sad. Parkinson’s disease has some surprising symptoms.

Charlie said...

Dr. Oliver Sacks: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

EDH said...

First, he noticed that David only thought his parents were impostors in person but not over the phone, which made him suspect the phenomenon had a strong visual component. Perhaps, for whatever reason, David failed to feel the expected feeling of warmth when looking at his parents, which made him believe they were doubles.

Normal individuals experience a greater emotional response when seeing the faces of loved ones as compared with strangers, which is measured by changes in skin conductance. Electrodes are placed on the subject’s hands to record how well the skin conducts electricity, which depends on the state of sweat glands and involuntarily changes with psychological arousal.

However, when Ramachandran showed David photos of family members and strangers, his skin conductance remained at the same level for both. Ramachandran came to the conclusion that Capgras requires a disconnect between the brain modules for face processing and emotional response — namely, the temporal lobe, which is involved in the perception of faces and facial affect, and the limbic system, which is involved in emotion.

Other tests determined that he had no problem discriminating between faces, but he did have a tendency to assign many identities to the same person if the photos were taken from a different angle. Even with certain photos of himself, he would say that person is a different David.

“Normally, when you first look at a room, it incubates in your mind, and if you see another aspect of the room, you add it to the same memory file. You add all that information up to create a single file,” he said. “That filing system seems to be broken in these people, and thus they duplicate things.”

So perhaps Marty Berman looked at his wife, and, because of his worsening dementia, didn’t feel the usual emotional glow. But what would lead him to the far-fetched conclusion that she wasn’t the real Carol?

Experts argued that a damaged connection between the areas of the brain responsible for face processing and emotion would not be enough to cement such an extreme delusion. Cognitive scientist Max Coltheart and his colleagues came up with a two-factor theory of delusional belief that has since been confirmed by brain imaging in a Capgras patient. The first factor is a form of brain damage that prevents familiar faces from evoking an emotional response, but a second factor exists that prevents patients from rejecting the delusional belief.

“The idea of loved ones being impostors should be rejected if you have a proper belief evaluation system, but brain damage in the right frontal lobe can prevent this from occurring,” said Coltheart, an emeritus professor at Macquarie University in Australia.


In my case it only took me a few seconds for my brain to catch up to my sight and to say to my friend "new choppers?"

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I just finished Ian McEwan's novel "Enduring Love," which goes into some detail on de Clerambault's syndrome: one person taking on a romantic attachment to another, in the full belief that it is reciprocated, but with none of the usual signs of mutual courtship or attraction. The second person is alleged to have "started it," and to have continued with some kind of hidden signals, but this person is actually a victim. It might seem funny to outsiders, but there is often a real threat of violence (why are you not reciprocating?), and it is very distressing even in a "minor" form. My only point would be: it's a cruel kind of mental illness that turns what should be the sweetness of intimacy into a nightmare.

EDH said...

Lloyd W. Robertson said...
I just finished Ian McEwan's novel "Enduring Love," which goes into some detail on de Clerambault's syndrome: one person taking on a romantic attachment to another, in the full belief that it is reciprocated, but with none of the usual signs of mutual courtship or attraction.

"Maureen Dowd has "noticed a weird pattern, in fiction and life, about sexual encounters... Women decide they’re not attracted to a guy they’re nestling with. Limerence is not in the cards. But they go ahead and have sex anyhow."

Yancey Ward said...

Mockturtle wrote:

"My husband had Capgras off and on with his dementia. He would insist I was an impostor with malevolent intent and nothing would dissuade him. It was necessary for me to hide knives and scissors and to always have a means of escape when he became violent. This was both frightening and heartbreaking as we had such a close and loving marriage for so many years. Tragic."

My father probably suffers from this as did his mother in the years before her death. He is occasionally verbally abusive, but hasn't yet devolved to actual violence against me or my mother. We haven't hidden the knives yet, but we have had to hide things like hammers and walking sticks, or anything he can use as a club because of his attempts to smash out windows. While he pretty much always knows who we are, he has started to refer to me as the "other Yancey", and he does the same with my mother. My belief, based on a lot of the other things he seems to think, is that he has forgotten that I am 51, and believes me to be the version of myself that was still living with them before college- I still look like me, but much older now- he notices the difference, and my "otherness" is the only way he can process it.

dbp said...

I think it would be clever, maybe it has been done, to have a body-snatcher type film; but the impostor is played by a different actor. Everybody else in the protagonist's life takes the impostor as genuine.

traditionalguy said...

Back in the 1950s the Psychiatrists sold a way to induce this mental disability and sold it to wealthy husbands. They Electrocuted women who remembered causes hate their husbands, but then revived them absent 90% of their memoryies. Science, you know.

FullMoon said...

Fernandistien said... [hush]​[hide comment]

And all this time I thought the main symptoms of Crapgas syndrome were hard starting and preignition.


That sounds retarded.
Bump it up a couple of degrees.

openidname said...

Tcrosse: Yay Tommy Cooper! Is Dr. Who next?

tcrosse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tcrosse said...

Yay Tommy Cooper! Is Dr. Who next?

Perish the thought.

Ken B said...

Vertigo.

mikee said...

Battlestar Galactica (Olmos version, not Ponderosa version) explored this issue in some depth, and came up with a really sappy resolution of it in the end, although the background music was pretty cool.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

We actually had a patient with Capgras who was an identical twin. He would quiz him when he came to visit, about who their camp counselors were and other childhood details, yet still remained unwilling to fully grant his brother was who he claimed. He refused treatment for months. When we finally got a court order and he took an antipsychotic, he came around in about 3 weeks, and said of his own symptoms That's crazy! Why would a person believe something lie that?" This regaining of full insight is very rare.

@ traditionalguy. Please read up on psychiatric topics before making pronouncements. In your case I think I should add and read with some humility.