“Don’t take a step forward!” she cried. Ben, her husband, froze and didn’t move. He reached out from a distance trying to calm her down. He looked deeply into Bella, his wife, and couldn’t help but wonder where it all went wrong.
He felt numb thinking of the fact that the episode had re-occurred, twice in a span of two days. That was definitely not a good sign. He quickly did a mental calculation and realized that this first started 2 months ago. “Bella, listen to me…” and before he could say anything more, Bella just grabbed the keys to her car and ran out.
She slammed the door behind her and quickly zoomed off before Ben could even get to her. Ben stood there for a few seconds and then just collapsed to the ground. He just couldn’t take it anymore.
His mind took him back to the time before his wife was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. Everything felt much easier and happier.
Every day, the young couple would make sure that they spent at least one hour together before bed, regardless of the kind of day they had had at work. Ben was saddened at the thought that it had been months since they had such a night.
He couldn’t really blame her. He couldn’t really blame anybody. Bella had had a very tough childhood; a victim of childhood trauma where she was abused physically by her father. She had always been a disturbed teenager, but Ben her only light at the end of the tunnel.
Soon after, she slowly started isolating herself. She had a messy sleep schedule and would barely step out of her room. Her withdrawal from every social situation became extremely evident. But everything got more serious when she first complained that she was being watched and followed on her way back home from work.
Ben was initially concerned about her safety and took the matters into his own hands but very soon found out that something else seemed out of place. She would be zoned out and would barely engage in intellectual conversations.
She slowly started having episodes where she would panic believing that someone was watching her in her own bedroom. When reached out for help, the psychiatrist said that she was suffering from Schizophrenia.
The treatment had begun when suddenly one day she told Ben that he was not being himself. Ben was confused but just carried on with his work anyway. That night when they sat for dinner, Bella was maintaining her distance from him and looking at him suspiciously.
She then started asking questions about herself to test whether Ben actually knew her well. He thought it was one of her stupid games but began to get a little worried as the questions did not end at all. She suddenly accused him of something. She said “Where’s Ben? Who are you?”
Ben was startled. “Bella, what kind of question is that? It’s me, it’s Ben! Look I even got you your favorite…” “No! You are not Ben! What did you do to him? Where is he? What do you want from me?” Bella started shouting. Ben was extremely confused and tried to calm her down but she ran to her room and locked her doors.
Ben immediately called her psychiatrist and described everything that had happened. The next day onwards, Bella slowly withdrew from him. She would always avoid him and not eat or sleep with him. The situation just got worse by the day.
She started accusing him of things he had never done. She started believing that someone had taken away her husband, and now was pretending to be him. She started spinning her own theories trying to find reasons for why the imposter has taken the place of her husband.
Trust was completely out of the picture. Bella slowly started showing a few violent tendencies due to which Ben instantly reached out for help. He was left in a state of confusion and despair. He never understood the reason behind her doubting him.
Sessions with Bella’s therapist made him slowly get a hold of the situation. He was lost for quite some time but slowly found his way back, along with Bella. He decided to support her regardless of the position she put him in.
A delusion, also known as Imposter Syndrome that co-occurs with Paranoid Schizophrenia where one strongly believes that their loved ones have been switched with someone pretending to be that person – an imposter.
The delusion is persistent, false and very hard to convince them otherwise. A rare syndrome that it is, has been found to also be related to neurodegenerative diseases. Lewy bodies which are proteins in the brain can begin to accumulate and can affect the normal functioning of the brain.
This can lead to problems related to memory, cognition and behavior. It can also be seen in Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy and sometimes head trauma patients.
For a diagnosis, doctors will conduct mental health exams and also perform MRIs and EEGs to check for any lesions or changes in the brain. Treatment focuses on the cause which may be Schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s. Therapy, family counseling and prescribed medications also aid the process.
The mind is a beautiful but cruel place. Imagine waking up one day and not being able to differentiate reality from a delusion. Living with Capgras Syndrome can be extremely challenging as it is comorbidity, making the entire situation worse.
The mind along with malfunctioning of the brain makes it hard to trust one’s own family and loved ones. Beginning to question the truth from the false is a pain not just for that individual but for their family members as well.
Making it easier for the individual by constant validation is the only way out. It is a condition that can never be understood but only supported. Hope can prove to be one’s best friend in a situation like this but more research and time should be put into unraveling more about Capgras Syndrome!