What is dissociative fugue?
Fugue meaning “fleeing away”, is a state of mind where an individual experiences symptoms of dissociation from one’s consciousness, awareness, personality, perception and escapes from the immediate surrounding moving to an altogether new place. It is purposeful wandering off from one’s work, home or family. From the psychological point of view, it is considered as a means of escape from one’s problems. It was earlier known as psychogenic fugue and has been added up as a stage in dissociative amnesia.
Most of the times the episode of dissociative fugue lasts only for few hours to days. An individual with dissociative amnesia appear normal and are unaware of their disorder.
It is a very rare disorder. Its prevalence is 0.2% of the general population.
Dissociative disorder is caused in reaction to extreme psychological stress and trauma. It is a survival and coping mechanism developed by the conscious mind when stress, fear and anxiety become unbearable.
- Long-term abuse of any form
- Unpleasant experiences in early childhood
- Prolonged hospitalization
- Being raised in a dysfunctional family
- Being a victim of tragedy including personal loss, natural calamities, war, accidents, assault are all examples of highly tense situations.
Symptoms and signs
An individual with dissociative fugue may not show any specific signs or symptoms of psychiatric problem outwardly.
Some of the signs of dissociative fugue can include:
- Impulsively travelling away from their home or work
- Loss of memory, inability to remember a particular phase of their life (an active state of amnesia)
- Adopting a new identity
- May appear confused or distressed
Dissociative fugue is diagnosed based on the symptoms as per the diagnosis criteria of DSM-5, published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is impossible to suspect an on-going fugue. It is mostly diagnosed when an individual comes out of their fugue state. The confusion and the fear of the unfamiliar circumstances ultimately lead to abnormal behaviour.
Recurring episodes of the dissociative fugue is considered as dissociative identity disorder (DID).
The main aim of the treatment is to help an individual to accept the trauma, develop a mechanism to cope up with the trauma, build a positive self-image, and gain self-control. Helping them think in a rational and responsible manner ensures that they do not suffer a relapse of dissociative fugue.
The treatment can include a combination of psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, creative therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.
Certain medications can be prescribed for addressing the other co-existing psychological conditions like anxiety or depression.
There are no preventive measures for dissociative fugue. Early intervention and treatment are the only means to ensure complete recovery.
An individual with dissociative fugue is highly susceptible to other associated psychological disorders. Depression, anxiety, sleep-related issues, are some of the commonly reported difficulties. These individuals may face difficulties in his or her personal and professional commitments.
Although rare, still it is important to report anyone who might be showing signs of dissociative fugue. If your loved ones have had an experience of dissociative fugue, consult a psychiatrist for early intervention.
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