By: Jocelyn Schwalm
Living in a world with only one person disguised a million different ways would be a terrifying place to be. For those suffering from Fregoli Syndrome, this is the kind of delusion that seeps into their reality on a daily basis.
Fregoli Syndrome is most commonly the belief that the people who surround those suffering delusion, have been replaced by one clever, quickly disguised individual, often someone who is familiar to them. However, the syndrome presents itself in different ways. Some who suffer believe that only one person in their life has been replaced by another, while others believe that everyone around them is the same person in a disguise.
Similar to Capgras Syndrome, a delusion when the individual affected suffers from the paranoia that one of their loved ones is an imposter, out to harm them, these types of delusional mindsets fall under a larger umbrella of Delusional Misidentification Syndromes, which is straying away from an objective reality and standard recognition of the self.
It is believed to be a somewhat rare psychological disorder with only 40 people worldwide suffering from it. However, some scientists have argued that this is not the case. There is now a widespread belief that it is much more prominent and that these delusions are being overshadowed by other diagnoses because psychologists don’t know what questions to ask their patients concerning the syndrome.
The psychological phenomenon was depicted in Charlie Kaufman’s “Anomalisa,” a stop-motion film that reveals a motivational speaker who lives a monotonous life where everyone around him is the same middle-aged man in different disguises. Fregoli Syndrome has multiple causes, and often it comes as a side effect of psychosis or schizophrenia, but it can also be the result of head trauma or a stroke. There have even been documented cases of paranoia setting in and a violent tendency seen from those who suffer in an attempt to free themselves from the watchful eye of the disguised “perpetrator.”
Scientists have attempted to hypothesize what is occurring within the brain when the delusion takes place. Some have explained it as the constant obsessive thought of a certain individual, and after brain trauma occurs this leads to familiarity with complete strangers. This fascinating psychological syndrome is just a reminder of how easily reality can waver within the vast abilities created by the mind.