Dissociative disorders are mental illnesses that develop when consciousness, memory, sense of identity and perception are interrupted for a short span or longer periods. There are mainly four types of dissociative disorders and they include dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, dissociative fugue and depersonalization disorder. In general, dissociative disorders are characterized by memory loss for certain periods, decreased sense of identity, depression and anxiety.
What is Dissociative Fugue
Now you know that dissociative fugue is an uncommon type of dissociative disorder. It is characterized by memory loss for certain periods along with a lost sense of identity. But, what makes dissociative fugue different from other such disorders is that the affected person is found to travel away from their home or workplace without any intimation. In fact, the term fugue is derived from the Latin word fugere, which means flight. Such people are often found to be confused about their identity and whereabouts and may wander aimlessly. They may also take up new identities during their journey. Such a state may last for a short span or for longer periods.
The duration of an episode of dissociative fugue can be anywhere between a few hours to a few months. Even though, the person may not show any other visible symptoms, the condition may affect his/her professional and personal relations and other social activities. In short, dissociative fugue is characterized by reversible amnesia and once the person recovers from this state, he/she will regain the lost memory. Returning to a normal state can be abrupt, leaving the person with no clue about his current situation.
Symptoms of Dissociative Fugue Disorder
Even though it is a psychiatric disorder, it is not necessary that people with dissociative disorder exhibit symptoms that are commonly found in psychiatric patients. Though, they may be a little confused, these people are found to act like normal people and gel well with the new surroundings, till they recover their memory.
As mentioned above, the most common symptom of dissociative fugue is traveling. A person with this condition may travel away from their home or workplace, all of a sudden, without intimating anybody. The characteristic symptom of this condition is amnesia, which is the inability to recall memories and self identity. The person may sometimes take up a new identity. Even mild depression can be among dissociative fugue symptoms. One or more episodes of dissociative fugue may happen to a person, before he/she is diagnosed with the condition, which is formerly known as psychogenic fugue. Once the person regains memory he/she will be in severe distress, as the surroundings will be new.
Dissociative Fugue Causes and Treatment
Even though the exact cause for this condition is not clear, it has been noted that this psychiatric disorder is said to have various contributory factors. They include extreme stress, experiencing traumatic events, violence, natural disasters, etc. If the condition is triggered with the use of psychotropic substances or alcohol consumption, then it is not considered as dissociative fugue.
It has also been noted that some of the above said symptoms can be associated with certain medical conditions. So, diagnostic procedures like blood tests and X-rays are often done to rule out the possibility of such medical conditions. Otherwise there is no physical test for diagnosing dissociative fugue. The doctor relies on the history and symptoms of the patient. Psychiatrists can sense the problem while interacting with the patient. They resort to special assessment tools for this purpose.
The mode of treatment may vary with the condition of individual patients. A combination of medication, cognitive therapy, psychotherapy, clinical hypnosis, family therapy, etc, are used for treating this condition. So, the aim of the treatment is to treat the underlying cause and to prevent further episodes of fugue. It has been observed that it is very difficult to regain the memory of a person, who is in a fugue state.
In most cases, dissociative fugue is found to be a self-limiting condition with a short duration. But, it can occur repeatedly or for prolonged periods in some people. So, proper treatment will help in preventing recurrence of the condition. This article is for informative purposes only and should not be replaced for expert medical advice. So, it is always better to consult a doctor to know more about dissociative fugue symptoms and treatment.