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Defeat Your Doppelgängers: Subjective Doubles


See yourself? Uwe Krejci /Riser/Getty Images
See yourself? Uwe Krejci /Riser/Getty Images

Do you frequently glimpse a stranger on the train who looks just like you? Convinced a nefarious organization deployed agents to impersonate you? The truth is you're probably suffering from the syndrome of subjective doubles, also known as the syndrome of doubles of the self.

First identified by George N. Christodoulou, this delusional identification syndrome involves false memories of familiarity in which strangers appear to share your exact appearance.

In a 1978 American Psychiatric Association paper, Christodoulou described the case of a woman dubbed "Ms. A" The reserved 18-year-old believed that a female neighbor had gradually metamorphosed into her doppelgänger through the use of special makeup, a wig and a mask. Furthermore, she believed the neighbor followed the orders of a mysterious "gang."

Ms. A landed in a treatment facility and, as one might expect, so did her double. She was soon writing home to her father to describe how each night her fellow patient "puts on a wig and a mask and walks from room to room stealing things in order to incriminate me."

Eventually Ms. A even attacked the suspected double and begged the doctor to unmask the woman. According to Christodoulou, Ms. A received various pharmaceutical treatments and showed marked improvement upon release. Within months, however, she suffered a relapse. In time, it became a pattern. Her doppelgängers continued to haunt her.

Bottom line, the doctor's office should be your first stop if you keep running into yourself around town. What you're experiencing is not unlike a very potent, very particular strain of déjà vecu. These are false memories of familiarity likely tied to physical disorders of the mind such as brain damage.

That may not be the most optimistic answer in the world, but I think you'll find it a tad more refreshing than "a twisted cabal is out to get you." Read the other Doppelgänger posts right here.


About the Author: Robert Lamb is a senior writer and host at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind. An avid science enthusiast, he boasts a deep love for monsters and a hankering for electronic music.


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