What is dissociative fugue?

Jonah Lester
What is dissociative fugue?

On rare occasions, some people can travel far from home and leave their life behind completely suddenly, without warning and without remembering anything about their past. These people show signs of amnesia and cannot even explain the reason for the trip or what got them there. It is dissociative fugue, a rare memory loss that causes great confusion among those affected.


  • What is dissociative fugue?
  • Causes of dissociative fugue
  • Symptoms of dissociative fugue
  • Treatment of dissociative fugue
    • Links of interest

What is dissociative fugue?

Dissociative fugue is a rare type of amnesia caused by psychological trauma in which the patient loses memory for a specific period of time and even leaves their daily life to travel far for no apparent reason..

This condition, unlike other types of amnesia, is not caused by physical trauma or diseases in which some area of ​​the brain is affected, but extremely stressful contextual circumstances that can cause this loss of temporary memory as an escape mechanism , causing great confusion, both in the patient and in their relatives.

Dissociative fugue is registered with the American Psychiatric Association (APA), as one of four dissociative disorders together with dissociative amnesia, dissociative identity disorder, and depersonalization disorder..

Some people have traveled many miles away from home in a state of confusion that can last for hours and even months. Although at first the person may appear normal, later he begins to enter a state of confusion by not being able to remember his past.

Dissociative fugue cases are not very common and those affected can move and even change their identity and form new ties. When they are aware of the lack of familiarity with the place, they try to reconnect with their past and the vast majority of those affected tend to regain their memory.

Causes of dissociative fugue

Dissociative escape is a psychological escape mechanism from extremely stressful and traumatic situations external to the person, such as natural disasters or wars, or traumatic personal situations, such as the death of a loved one or other difficult experiences, which can lead to a person to this state of blockage and lack of memory about himself.

This strange disorder affects only 0.2% of the population, usually adults who have suffered severe and stressful trauma.

According to the Diagnostic Manual of Psychological Disorders (DSM-V), there are four conditions to meet the diagnosis of dissociative fugue:

  • Unexpected and unplanned travel far from the usual place coupled with partial or total amnesia
  • Confusion and uncertainty about one's own identity and in rare circumstances, adoption of a new identity
  • Characteristic travel and amnesia are not consequences of dissociative identity disorder, drug use, or physical illness
  • The episode must result in impairment severe enough to interfere with the patient's ability to function in social, work, or home settings..

Symptoms of dissociative fugue

Dissociative fugue can last from a few hours to weeks or months. The main symptoms for a short time are the feeling of confusion and lack of memory of the affected person. When the leak lasts more than a few hours, the symptoms are usually the following:

  • Confused state
  • Absences from work or the most frequented area
  • Lack of autobiographical memory. The affected person does not remember things about himself / herself, events and people in his / her life)
  • Severe stress
  • Total disconnection from one's own emotions
  • Inability to recognize loved ones
  • Reaching unknown places or places you never usually go
  • Depression and anxiety

Treatment of dissociative fugue

When a person is in a state of dissociative fugue, medical professionals often evaluate their conditions to rule out a possible physical cause for the memory loss. If the answer is negative, the patient is treated through psychotherapy by psychological health professionals.

Psychotherapy focused on stress management and cognitive restructuring are usually very beneficial for these types of patients, as well as family or couple therapies to help them better manage stressful personal situations. Other effects associated with this type of amnesia, such as depression or anxiety, should also be addressed by professionals through the most appropriate psychological or pharmacological treatments for the specific problem..

Links of interest

  • What is amnesia and types of amnesia https://www.psicoactiva.com/blog/que-es-la-amnesia-y-tipos-de-amnesia/
  • The dissociative fugue. On the subject of a case and a brief bibliographic review. Journal of the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry. http://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0211-57352011000400010
  • Dissociative fugue. http://www.minddisorders.com/Del-Fi/Dissociative-fugue.html.
  • Dissociative fugue: Symptoms, causes, and treatment. Timothy J. Legg, PhD. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319024

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