Dangerous misidentification of people due to flashback phenomena in posttraumatic stress disorder

J Forensic Sci. 1998 Nov;43(6):1107-11.


Misidentification of people may occur in a number of psychiatric disorders associated with delusional thinking. Misidentification of people may also occur in the context of visual flashback phenomena associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. People who misidentify someone during a flashback associated with previous war combat experience may perceive and conceptualize the misidentified object as an enemy who may be both feared and disliked. This might make the misidentified objects become the targets of violent attacks by the affected person. In this article we present five cases of flashback-induced misidentification of people who were subsequently attacked within the context of the flashback experience. The nature of the misidentification of persons due to flashback experiences is discussed. The association between the type of misidentification and aggression is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Combat Disorders / psychology*
  • Delusions / psychology*
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Hallucinations / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Perceptual Disorders / psychology*
  • Vietnam
  • Violence / psychology