What is Dissociative Fugue? “Fugue” means flight and that is the component that is added in this dissociative disorder. It is similar to dissociative amnesia in that there is inability to recall some or all of one’s past but with the addition of sudden, unexpected travel away from home or one’s customary place of work. The person experiencing dissociative fugue may adopt a new identity in addition to forgetting theirs.
As a stand-alone diagnosis, this is quite uncommon. The prevalence of dissociative fugue has been estimated at 0.2%, but it is much more common in connection with wars, accidents, and natural disasters. People with dissociative identity disorder frequently exhibit fugue behaviors. In fact, repeated fugues are indicative of the existence of dissociative identity disorder.
A fugue state may not be identified until after the fact. As is the case with amnesia, dissociative fugues may spontaneously resolve. It is in the aftermath that the individual may experience the most distress, as they try to come to terms with what has transpired. Reactions after a fugue may include intense feelings related to whatever caused the individual to flee: depression, discomfort, grief, shame, intense conflict, or even suicidal or aggressive impulses may appear.
Trauma and extreme psychological stress are the precursors to this dissociative disorder. As described regarding dissociation in general, fugue is a method of self-preservation. It may function to literally remove the individual from a environment or circumstance that feels unmanageable. The focus of therapy would be to help the individual identify the triggers to the fugue to allow for developing more adaptive coping skills.