One research study has reported that Capgras, Fregoli, and psychotic syndromes can be distinguished from one another by observing facial recognition reaction times. Patients suffering from delusional misidentification disorders had longer took longer to perform facial recognition tasks than psychotic patients, with Fregoli patients taking longer than Capgras patients. This may indicate differences in underlying pathology among psychotic, Capgras and Fregoli syndromes (Walther et al., 2010).
In addition to psychoses, Fregoli syndrome has been associated with a number of other disorders. Bruggemann and Garlip report a case of erotomania combined with Fregoli delusion in a 24 year old woman. This woman believed a colleague who was the target of her erotomania, appeared as other people. While they did not find any overt pathology they did note EEG differences in the right temporal lobe. This woman, as is typical for people with Fregoli syndrome, also suffered from psychotic symptoms such as imagining she had become pregnant by her colleague and that she was his fiancée. She was treated via psychotherapy and neuroleptic medication, which lessened her symptoms. When the patient stopped taking her medication her psychotic symptoms returned. The authors conclude that the Fregoli syndrome was secondary to paranoid schizophrenia (Brüggemann & Garlipp, 2007).
Melca et. al. (2012) describe two patients with delusional misidentification disorders (Vapgras and Fregoli syndromes) who also suffered from treatment resistant obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). One of the two patients also was diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder while the other with pervasive developmental disorder. Both patients in the study exhibited varying amounts of insight related to their OCD. The authors speculate that there may be a relationship between OCD and delusional misidentification disorders (DMS).
Fregoli syndrome has also been associated with violent behavior. Delavenne & Garcia (2011) report on a case of a paranoid schizophrenic woman who was convinced that a boyfriend was able to appear as other people so he could follow her. This patient had an episode of violent behavior associated with her Fregoli delusion. She had topped taking her anti-psychotic medication 6 months prior to her violent outburst. Facial recognition tests and a CT scan of her brain revealed no abnormalities. Even though she was put back on anti-psychotic medication, her delusions returned after 10 days.
Fregoli syndrome has also been associated with bipolar schizoaffective disorder and Hashimoto's thyroiditis (Ceylan et al., 2010).
Delusional Misidentification Syndrome in the form of Fregoli Delusion has also made appearances in popular culture. One of the best examples of this is a variant of Fregoli Delusion which is central to the film Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999). In this film there is a tunnel in a strange half floor of an office building. Travel through this tunnel allows people to experience ‘being’ the actor John Malkovich for a short time. Later in the film, John Malkovich himself discovers the existence of the tunnel and goes through it. When he emerges everyone else is a version of Malkovich, with his face and everything they say coming out as the word ‘Malkovich’.
An older instance of DMS can be found primarily in the British Isles. In times past British or Celtic babies were thought to be kidnapped by fairies and replaced by identical looking children. The replacement children, called changelings, were often sickly and exhibited abnormal behavior.
Evans (2000) describes the Irish belief in changelings that is typical of the British Isles;
Mothers and babies were thought to be especially liable to be abducted by the fairies, and protective charms were hidden in a baby's dress or placed in the cradle. When children were taken to be baptized, too, special preparations were made and precautions taken, for example, a County Antrim clergyman reported that his parishioners would place a piece of bread and cheese in the child's clothing.
The old custom of dressing boys in girls' clothes, in long frocks, until they were ten or eleven years of age has been explained as a means of deceiving the fairies, who were always on the lookout for healthy young boys whom they could replace by feeble "changelings." For the same reason it is unwise to praise a child without adding a saving "God bless him," and young boys are still half jocularly referred to as "rogues and Tories." The belief in "changelings" may have arisen as an explanation of the high mortality rate among baby boys as compared with girls. (p. 289)
Indeed, changeling legends may be related to high infant mortality rates in general. When an infant becomes sick and dies for no apparent reason, the human mind will seek an explanation for such a tragic event. If no logical reason can be found the human mind invents a reason that can provide meaning to the tragedy and lessen its sting. There is always a chance the original child can be returned by the fairies, or the thought the original child is being raised by the fairies and has been given special powers can be of comfort to the grieving parents.
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