Capgras' syndrome in first-episode psychotic disorders

Psychopathology. 2014;47(4):261-9. doi: 10.1159/000357813. Epub 2014 Feb 7.


Background: Misidentification phenomena, including the delusion of 'imposters' named after Joseph Capgras, occur in various major psychiatric and neurological disorders but have rarely been studied systematically in broad samples of modern patients. This study investigated the prevalence and correlated clinical factors of Capgras' phenomenon in a broad sample of patient-subjects with first-lifetime episodes of psychotic affective and nonaffective disorders.

Methods: We evaluated 517 initially hospitalized, first-episode psychotic-disorder patients for the prevalence of Capgras' phenomenon and its association with DSM-IV-TR diagnoses including schizophreniform, brief psychotic, unspecified psychotic, delusional, and schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar-I disorder and major depression with psychotic features, and with characteristics of interest including antecedent psychiatric and neurological morbidity, onset type and presenting psychopathological phenomena, using standard bivariate and multivariate statistical methods.

Results: Capgras' syndrome was identified in 73/517 (14.1%) patients (8.2-50% across diagnoses). Risk was greatest with acute or brief psychotic disorders (schizophreniform psychoses 50%, brief psychoses 34.8%, or unspecified psychoses 23.9%), intermediate in major depression (15%), schizophrenia (11.4%) and delusional disorder (11.1%), and lowest in bipolar-I (10.3%) and schizoaffective disorders (8.2%). Associated were somatosensory, olfactory and tactile hallucinations, Schneiderian (especially delusional perception), and cycloid features including polymorphous psychotic phenomena, rapidly shifting psychomotor and affective symptoms, pananxiety, ecstasy, overconcern with death, and perplexity or confusion, as well as rapid onset, but not sex, age, abuse history, dissociative features, or indications of neurological disorders.

Conclusions: Capgras' syndrome was prevalent across a broad spectrum of first-episode psychotic disorders, most often in acute psychoses of rapid onset.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Capgras Syndrome / complications
  • Capgras Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Capgras Syndrome / psychology*
  • Capgras Syndrome / therapy
  • Delusions / complications
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / complications
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychopathology
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Psychotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychotic Disorders / therapy
  • Young Adult