What is Dissociative Fugue?
Dissociative Fugue (previously called psychogenic fugue) involves forgetting or losing awareness of one’s identity in part or entirety, and may involve the creation of a new identity, and/or travel to a new place without knowing how you got there.
Dissociative fugue is an extremely rare, severe form of dissociative amnesia. It is a subtype of a broader group of dissociative disorders. Dissociation is when someone is cut off from their experience so that they don’t have awareness of it.
Amnesia is the inability to remember things. This mental disorder is mostly associated with severe stress that a person has experienced or witnessed, resulting in traumatic events such as war, abuse, accidents, or extreme violence.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is often a trigger of this medical condition. Dissociative disorders are generally brief episodes that can last from less than a day to several months.
Signs of dissociative fugue
It is often hard for others to realize that someone is going through a “fugue episode” because their behaviour can appear normal.
Although, there are small signs to take note of, such as:
- Unplanned and unexpected travel apart from home
- Memory loss; a hard time recalling past events or information from their personal life
- Confusion about their identity potentially leads to creating a new identity
Complications and associated conditions
There are various complications associated with Dissociative Fugue. The feeling of disconnection occurs so intensely and often that it becomes hard to function in daily life. These can range from minor to severe impacts and need to be monitored.
- Intrusive and suicidal thoughts
- Self-harm, including cutting, mutilation, etc.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Personality disorders
- Eating disorders
- Relationship and work difficulties
- Sleep disorders
- Substance abuse and drug use
- Seizures (not due to epilepsy)
- May end up missing – wandering in unfamiliar areas
Is there a difference between Dissociative Fugue and Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), is when someone feels as though they have two or more distinct personalities.
Each personality has its own memory about its own autobiographical events and may lack awareness of the other personalities.
Alternately, people with Dissociative Fugue have a loss of memory, can not recall the past, and are confused about their identity.
How can Therapy help with Dissociative Fugue?
Various types of treatment can help a person who has experienced Dissociative Fugue.
There is psychotherapy to understand thinking patterns, family therapy to ensure a strong support system, and art therapy to express and explore thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a safe and creative atmosphere.
Furthermore, holistic therapies like meditation and massages can offer trauma survivors non-linguistic ways to develop further understanding and acceptance of their pain.