What Is Dissociative Fugue Disorder? Its Symptoms And Treatment

Dissociative fugue is a mental illness which is characterized by temporary loss of one’s personal identity. Without knowing who he is, the person concerned roams about from one place to another away from his home or from his work place. Dissociative fugue is a part of larger dissociative disorders, which also comprises of dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depolarization disorder.

Often the person suffering from this disorder recovers without any radical treatment. In some cases the person may need cognitive therapy, psychotherapy medication etc. The prognosis is good.

The word fugue is derived from Latin, and its meaning is flight.

Formerly dissociative fugue was called psychogenic fugue. Most people suffering from dissociative fugue are confused about their identity and in the process they project themselves with a new identity. They travel to other place especially away from their house or their office without giving intimation.

From the outward appearance, you may not be able to recognize that a person is having mental illness as he does not behave strangely nor does his appearance look strange. This breakdown of memory, perception, identity and awareness is momentary for less than a day or in rare cases for few months.

This mental illness can affect a person’s personal as well as professional life.

Symptoms Of Dissociative Fugue Disorder

Even if dissociative fugue is a psychiatric illness, it does not always exhibit the general mental symptoms that are common in a patient who is known to suffer from psychiatric illness. Even though they may be confused, these persons behave normally and mix with other people as normal people do, until they regain their memory.

Traveling is one of the commonest symptoms of dissociative fugue. Wandering their way, without giving intimation to their near and dear ones is characteristic feature of dissociative fugue. Sometime the patient adopts a new identity, works in a new place. He is not able to recall the past event or any information of his past life. He behaves as if nothing unusual has happened in his life.

Some patients may experience mild depression. As the person regains his lost memory, he feels everything is new, his surrounding is new and this leads to a distressing situation.

How Is Dissociative Fugue Treated?

Generally the disorder is rare entity. Dissociative fugue is linked to severe stressful or traumatic event in a person’s life. An accident, wartime problems, physical abuse, extreme torture and violence are few precipitating events that may be responsible for dissociative fugue.

When the disorder is caused due to alcoholism or after substance abuse than the condition is not related to dissociative fugue. Some medical conditions can also mimic this disorder, blood tests and other diagnostic procedures can be utilized to rule out medical disease.

In the absence of any physical illness, the person is referred to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. The main aim of the psychologist is to help the patient to come out of trauma and stressful event that has triggered fugue. Preventing re-occurrence of the episode is also considered in treatment part.

Generally for such disorders a combination of treatment is given which includes cognitive therapy, hypnosis, psychotherapy, medicines etc.