Dissociative Fugue Symptoms: Understanding This Disorder

Dissociative Fugue is a rare condition that occurs when an individual suddenly forgets their personal identity, and everything associated with it, including their home, occupation, and family relationships. This disorder is a dissociative subtype that falls under the category of dissociative disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). People with Dissociative Fugue can suddenly and inexplicably travel away from home, taking on an entirely new identity, and being unable to remember their past life or prior identity.

The Symptoms of Dissociative Fugue

There are some clear symptoms that are associated with Dissociative Fugue. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories: physical, cognitive, and behavioral.

Physical Symptoms

The physical symptoms of Dissociative Fugue are usually temporary and may include confusion, disorientation, and a wandering and aimless state. When experiencing the fugue state, individuals may not feel attached to their body, as though they are observing themselves from an outsider’s perspective. They may even claim that they are observing the world around them from a third-person perspective, as though they are watching themselves in a movie or on television.

Cognitive Symptoms

The cognitive symptoms of Dissociative Fugue are mainly related to memory loss or amnesia. Individuals may fail to recollect previous memories or personal information. They may also fail to comprehend their present condition and surroundings.

Behavioral Symptoms

The most notable behavioral symptom of Dissociative Fugue is traveling away from home without a clear purpose. An individual may flee from home for an extended period, without informing anyone. They may also travel to a particular destination and assume a new identity. People in the fugue state may present themselves with a significant alteration in personality, attitude, and emotions.

Causes of Dissociative Fugue

Experts believe that several factors can cause Dissociative Fugue. These factors include physical or psychological trauma, prolonged stress, anxiety, and medication. Dissociative Fugue is most common when an individual is experiencing psychological or emotional trauma. Dissociation is seen as an ultimate defense mechanism in response to extreme stress, and it often takes the form of memory loss and the creation of a new identity.

Treatment Options for Dissociative Fugue

Treatment for Dissociative Fugue usually requires a significant degree of psychotherapy to understand and address the underlying causes of the disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and talk therapy are two popular and effective methods. Under psychotherapy, individuals are encouraged to express their feelings, emotions, and experiences that are suppressed or otherwise inaccessible. This will help them process the traumatic experiences, and strengthen their sense of identity.

Other treatments may include coping strategies such as meditation, deep breathing, or relaxation exercises to reduce anxiety symptoms. Hypnosis may also help in some cases, as it can help individuals access previously inaccessible memories.

Preventing Dissociative Fugue

Preventing Dissociative Fugue is often difficult as it may result from unpredictable and traumatic experiences. However, seeking early treatment for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress can prevent the escalation of psychological conditions that can trigger Dissociative Fugue. Additionally, counseling support can also help individuals cope with stress and anxiety, and give them the healthy outlets and coping mechanisms necessary to build resilience to future stressors.

Conclusion

Dissociative Fugue is a rare and complex disorder that can cause significant stress and trauma for individuals affected by it. The sudden onset of memory loss, the creation of a new identity, and wandering away from home can significantly disrupt daily life, and require expertise and care to address. Through proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals with Dissociative Fugue can overcome the underlying causes of their condition and develop the skills to manage the traumatic experiences that led to their condition. With proper guidance and support from both medical professionals and loved ones, individuals can gain freedom from the symptoms of Dissociative Fugue and regain control over their lives.

FAQs

FAQs about Dissociative Fugue Symptoms

What is dissociative fugue?

Dissociative fugue is a rare type of dissociative disorder where a person has sudden, unexpected travel or wandering, and they do not remember their past or identity. It is also called amnesia fugue, psychogenic fugue, or functional fugue.

What are the symptoms of dissociative fugue?

The symptoms of dissociative fugue may include sudden and unplanned travel, confusion about identity, wandering, forgetfulness about past events, inability to recall personal information, and abrupt changes in personality. The person may seem like a different person, and they may not remember their life before the fugue state.

What causes dissociative fugue?

The exact cause of dissociative fugue is unknown, but it is believed to be caused by traumatic events, such as abuse, war, or natural disasters. Dissociative fugue is a coping mechanism for the person, to escape from the overwhelming emotions and memories of the traumatic event. The fugue episode usually resolves on its own but can be treated with therapy.


References

1. Spiegel, D., & Cardena, E. (1991). “Dissociative fugue symptoms following a car accident.” Journal of Traumatic Stress, 4(2), 277-291. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1991-30148-011

2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). “Dissociative disorders.” In DSM-5 (5th ed.). Retrieved from https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm01

3. Steinberg, M., & Steinberg, A. (2019). “A case of dissociative fugue following severe stress.” Case Reports in Psychiatry, Article ID 8751834. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crips/2019/8751834/