In this second part of our 10 strange phenomena of the human mind series, we discuss Fregoli Delusion. This is a rare brain phenomenon in which the affected individual believes that different people are the same person, albeit in a variety of disguises.
Can you imagine a situation where your mind believes that all your friends are the same person wearing different masks?
Fregoli Delusion is commonly associated with paranoia, as well as believe that the disguise is intended for persecution. Fregoli Delusion derives its name from Leopoldo Fregoli, an Italian actor who was popular for his ability to promptly change his appearance during stage act. The phenomenon was first recorded in 1927 after a 27-year-old woman alleged that she was being persecuted by two actors that she often saw at the theater. Brain damage has been proposed as a cause of Fregoli Delusion.
Are you with me? In the next few paragraphs, we’re going to dig deeper into this strange phenomenon of the human mind.
Cases Recorded All Around the World
What if your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your sister or your boss were really all the same person who keeps on changing their appearance in order to trick you? That’s what Fregoli Delusion does to the mind. It is closely related to Capgras Delusion, a more rare delusional disorder that makes you believe that all your family members, friends, and your social circle have been replaced with imposters. There are more cases of this phenomenon recorded in different parts of the world.
The Story of Mrs. T.
Mrs. T happens to be a 69-year-old housewife who has been discharged from an area hospital. She had earlier been admitted in the Psychiatric department but went to a different doctor altogether to get the second opinion. During her first visit to the psychiatrist, she was told that she had a typical psychosis because believed that her husband had been replaced by a complete stranger. Mrs. T had refused to share a bed with this imposter and locked herself in the bedroom at night. She also went ahead and asked her son for a gun and fought off police officers when they tried to hospitalize her. Sometimes, she thought that her husband was her father, who died many years ago. Apart from her husband, she has no problem misidentifying other members of the family.
Betty believes that a former lover and his current girlfriend are monitoring her. She is convinced that these two people are occupying homes and garages in the neighborhood and keep on changing their identities. In her view, they are doing this to prevent her from telling both family and friends that she had an affair with the said lover. Betty believes that these people are incredible masters of disguise. She believes that they can easily alter their facial appearance, as well as their gender in a moment’s notice.
The kind of paranoia that comes with Fregoli Delusion has fed a lot of science fiction films and books. Including the Stepford Wives, Total Recall and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Symptoms of Fregoli Delusion
This strange phenomenon of the human mind comes with a variety of interesting symptoms. These include denial, hallucinations, visual memory problems, lack of awareness and self-control, seizures, inability to control behavior and even violent tendencies. Affected individuals are unable to connect familiar information and identify people. All these symptoms are a serious threat to the physical and mental well being of an individual. Since affected people hold the belief that the impostors are keen to persecute them, they also pose a risk to others around them, as violent tendencies can manifest.
There are different treatments and prognosis for Fregoli Delusion and other delusional misidentification disorders that result from neurological damage. Sometimes, patients are able to attain recovery slowly over a duration of time. In some other cases, more so where elderly patients are involved, the phenomenon continues or worsens, eventually progressing to general dementia. Different patients have achieved different levels of success with various options such as behavioral and cognitive therapies. As psychiatrists work on unearthing more specific details about this strange phenomenon, medications such as anti-psychotics, sedatives, anticonvulsants, and tranquilizers are also administered.