How Capgras Syndrome Works

Disorders Similar to Capgras Syndrome

Capgras syndrome is classified as a delusional misidentification syndrome, known as DMS or DMI. These delusions are monothematic, which means that they center around one idea and make the world a very strange place for the people who have them, as they see everyone in disguise or perhaps don't even recognize their own bodies.

Frégoli syndrome or Frégoli delusion

Named after a quick-change artist, Leopoldo Frégoli, the Frégoli delusion or Frégoli syndrome leads people to believe that the people around them are actually other people in disguise. For example, you see your doctor and think that it's actually your ex-girlfriend disguised as your doctor. One patient was convinced that two famous actresses put on the guise of her nurses and acquaintances in order to pester her [source: Edelstyn]. People with Frégoli delusion think that the people around them are capable of changing their appearance, dress and gender in a matter of moments, with only nearly imperceptible clues to their real identity.

Cotard's syndrome or Cotard's delusion

Cotard's syndrome or Cotard's delusion describes the belief that one is missing organs, body parts or has become emotionally dead. Some people with Cotard's think that they no longer exist because they don't feel anything. Cotard's usually occurs in tandem with psychoses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Patients' complaints run from "My heart doesn't beat" to "I don't have muscles" [source: Baeza]. Someone with Cotard's might think that his brain is rotting, that he's missing some of his insides or that he's "melted away" [source: Christensen]. They think they're the walking dead.


People with intermetamorphosis think that familiar people in their lives have switched identities, both physically and psychologically. While Fregoli syndrome involves just a physical transformation, intermetamorphosis includes the self. You might, for instance, decide that your father is really your brother, and every time you see your father, you see him as having the physical and psychological attributes of your brother.

Déjà vu

Déjà vu isn't a delusional misidentification syndrome, but it's just as disconcerting. Déjà vu happens to a lot of us. You see something and immediately feel like it's something you've seen before. Or someone says something and you look around and the comment, the environment, everything -- you could swear it's already happened. But some people have chronic déjà vu. They remember things that never happened, like already watching the news, going to a friend's funeral or meeting someone for the first time. For them, nothing is new. One man said he wouldn't go to a doctor to find out what was wrong because he'd already been. Only, he hadn't [source: Ottawa Citizen]. (For a more in-depth look at déjà vu, check out How Déjà Vu Works).

For more information on Capgras syndrome, the brain and related topics, check out the links below.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Assal, Frederic and Mario F. Mendez. "Intermetamorphosis in a Patient with Alzheimer's Disease." Letter printed in Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 15:246-247, May 2003
  • Baeza, I. et al. "Cotard's Syndrome in a Young Male Bipolar Patient." Letter printed in Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences. 12:117-120, February 2000
  • Berman, carol W. "When a 'Duplicate' Family Moves In." The New York Times. Sept. 11, 2007.
  • Cavanagh, PJ. "Delusional misidentification secondary to perceptual abnormality: An unusual case of Capgras syndrome." International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice. 2000. Vol 4. p 245-247.
  • Christensen, Richard C. "Cotard's Syndrome in a Homeless Man." Letter printed in Psychiatric Services. 52:1256-1257, September 2001
  • Dejoed, Jean Marc et al. "Capgras syndrome: a clinical manifestation of watershed cerebral infarct complicating the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation." Critical Care. August 2001. Vol 5 No 4.
  • "Delusions and Delusional Disorders - Part I." Harvard Mental Health Letter. Jan 1999.
  • "Delusions and Delusional Disorders - Part I." Harvard Mental Health Letter. Feb 1999.
  • Dietl, T. et al. "Capgras syndrome - out of sight, out of mind?" Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 2003. 108(6)
  • Edelstyn, et al. "Visual Processing in Patients with Fregoli Syndrome." Cognitive Neuropsychiatry. 1996, 1 (2), 103-124
  • Edelstyn, N.M.J and F. Oyebode. "A Review of the Phenomenology and Cognitive Neuropsychological Origins of the Capgras Syndrome." International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 1999. 14: 48-59.
  • Gruter, Thomas and Ulrich Kraft. "Alien Friends." Scientific American Mind. 2005. Vol 16 Issue 1.
  • Hirstein, William and and V.S. Ramachandran. "Capgras syndrome: a novel probe for understanding the neural representation of the identity and familiarity of persons." Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences. Vol 264, No 1380/March 22, 1997.
  • Kirkey, Sharon. "When déjà vu is more than just an odd feeling." The Ottawa Citizen. Feb. 13, 2006.
  • Layton, Julia. "Can face blindness explain why that person at work never says hi to me?" HowStuffWorks. Feb 14, 2007.
  • Pearn J, Gardner-Thorpe C. "Jules Cotard (1840-1889): his life and the unique syndrome which bears his name." Neurology. 2002 May 14;58(9):1400-3.
  • "Schizophrenia." National Institute of Mental Health. 2006.
  • Shea, John. "The Fragile Orchestra." The Pennslvania Gazette. March 1998.