A person suffering from dissociative fugue will have no recollection of their history or of themselves personally. The memories they lose are often known as autobiographical memories. The condition is a way for a person to get out of a situation that is too stressful for them to handle.
Read: Short-Term Memory Loss
How long do fugue states last and what do they look like?
This symptom involves traveling or wandering because of the Latin word “fugue,” meaning to flee or run away. It is usually not until someone has evidence that they are unable to recall something that they can recognize gaps in their memory. Those suffering from this symptom may wander or accidentally travel to specific places. The person often feels confused after exiting the fugue state because they are unable to recall how they got there.
Some fugue states last only a few hours, while others last weeks or months. Those with fugue states tend to look late or absent from their usual comings and goings, making it harder for others to notice they’re suffering. Longer fugue states can cause individuals to feel far from home. Their memories will return when they reclaim their lost identities. They might try to build new lives for themselves until they regain their memories.
Difference between dissociative fugue and dissociative amnesia
The dissociative fugue is a subtype of dissociative amnesia. Dissociation can include the loss of identity, a person’s personal history, or other aspects of one’s autobiography. When someone has dissociative fugue, they may find themselves wandering physically to other places, often far away. Some cases of fugue can last for months, unlike dissociative amnesia.
Difference between dissociative fugue and dissociative identity disorder
The term dissociative identity disorder used to refer to multiple personality disorder, where the individual is affected by multiple personality states at the same time. There has been a description of it as a state of possession. It is also possible to suffer from severe memory loss. People who have been abused are more likely to suffer from this disorder.
Dissociative fugue symptoms
A dissociative fugue might last anywhere from a few minutes to many hours. During this period, the individual experiencing it may appear confused and forgetful to others, but they will return to normal afterward. The dissociative fugue may be unnoticed by others in situations where the duration is so short.
However, the illness might continue for weeks, months, or even years in certain cases. A person experiencing dissociative fugue for more than a few hours may have the following symptoms:
- Unexpected absence from work or avoidance of other areas they often visit
- Autobiographical memory loss (about themselves, other people, events in their lives etc.)
- Detachment from their own feelings
- Extreme work-related or relationship-related stress
- Identity confusion
- Depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and other mental health problems
- Not being able to identify loved ones
- Wandering or traveling to locations they wouldn’t normally go
Often, a person suffering from dissociative fugue will abruptly leave their present life and begin a new one. Their new existence is generally nothing like the one they left behind. If a Wall Street executive suffers dissociative fugue, she may abandon her high-powered metropolis job to work as a florist in a small village.
A circumstance that puts the person under a lot of emotional stress might cause dissociative fugue. The fugue state is said to be a person’s way of escaping from the stress that they can’t handle otherwise.
Severe sexual trauma is one of the most prevalent causes of dissociative fugue. Other factors to consider are:
- Feelings of severe humiliation or embarrassment
- Trauma caused by war, an accident or natural disaster
- A kid who has been subjected to long-term mental or physical abuse
These traumas may have occurred to the individual directly, or they may have watched them occurring to others and been badly traumatized as a result of what they witnessed. There’s also the chance that someone is vulnerable to dissociative fugue due to a genetic connection.
Fugue state treatment
To treat dissociative fugue, the first step is to rule out any medical problems that might induce memory loss. Dissociative fugue cannot be diagnosed using a particular test. However, a medical professional will want to run a number of tests to rule out any illnesses or traumas that may induce memory loss.
The person will typically be sent to a psychiatrist or another mental health expert once all physical or medical problems have been checked out. A set of clinical interviews and exams will help the mental health specialist to identify dissociative fugue. Structured Clinical Interview for Dissociation, or SCID-D, may be used in these interviews. After a diagnosis has been determined, therapy can begin.
The following treatments may be used:
- Establishing a secure environment
- Assisting in the recovery of forgotten memories
- Assistance in reuniting with life before the trauma
- Progressively identifying, addressing, and finally managing the trauma that has occurred
- Originally caused dissociative fugue
- Building coping skills to help you deal with unpleasant circumstances in the future
- Resuming normal life activities
- Connection building and improvement
These objectives are met by a variety of therapies, which may include:
- Family therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Techniques for meditation and relaxation
- Art or music therapy
- Clinical hypnosis
- Dialectical behavior therapy
There is currently no medicine that can aid with dissociative behavior. However, you may be offered medicines to aid with other symptoms such as sadness or anxiety.
Complications and their consequences
Dissociative fugue is linked to a number of complications. These can range from moderate to severe, and they should be kept an eye out for. They are as follows:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Attempted self-harm — includes cutting, mutilation, and other forms of self-harm
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Issues or problems in relationships and at work
- Sleep disorders
- Usage of illegal drugs
- Seizures (not due to epilepsy)
Some persons who suffer from dissociative fugue go missing or are found wandering in strange places.
Is it possible to prevent dissociative fugue?
Dissociative fugue can’t be prevented, but treatment may be helpful as soon as symptoms appear. It might also be possible to reduce the risk of developing dissociative disorders through quick intervention following a traumatic experience or emotionally distressing event.
When should you see a doctor?
It is preferable to diagnose dissociative fugue as soon as possible. This is due to the wide spectrum of problems it might create.
You should consult a medical expert, any time a loved one displays indications of disorientation or memory loss after experiencing or witnessing severe or long-term trauma or stress of any sort.
After extreme stress or trauma, you should also call a medical expert if a loved one shows strange behavior or ceases showing up to work or locations they regularly visit. It’s critical to rule out any underlying medical issues that might be causing the symptoms.
Then, if the symptoms aren’t due to a medical condition, get treatment from a mental health specialist as soon as feasible. Working with a mental health expert early on can help prevent symptoms from intensifying or a dissociative fugue from lasting longer.
Read: Subconscious Mind
The prognosis for someone suffering from dissociative fugue is typically positive. As soon as treatment and intervention begin, the outlook improves.
The majority of persons who suffer from fugue state regain most or all of their memories. The memories may come back fast and all at once, or they may come back gradually over time. However, some people are unable to totally regain their memories.