For its use in music, see fugue (music). more...
The Merck Manual defines Dissociative Fugue as:
- One or more episodes of amnesia in which the inability to recall some or all of one's past and either the loss of one's identity or the formation of a new identity occur with sudden, unexpected, purposeful travel away from home.
In support of this definition, the Merck Manual further defines Dissociative Amnesia as:
- An inability to recall important personal information, usually of a traumatic or stressful nature, that is too extensive to be explained by normal forgetfulness.
In the field of psychology, a fugue state is usually defined by the term dissociative fugue and from the definitions above it is etiologically related to dissociative amnesia (which in popular culture is usually simply called amnesia, the state where someone completely forgets who they are).
A fugue state is therefore similar in nature to the concept of dissociative identity disorder (DID) (formerly called multiple-personality disorder) although DID is widely understood to have its conception in a long-term life event (such as a traumatic childhood), where sufficient time is given for alternate personality representations to form and take hold. Sudden neurological damage would thus seem to fit more closely the onset of a fugue state.
As the person experiencing a fugue state may have recently suffered an amnesic onset -- perhaps a head trauma, or the reappearance of an event or person representing an earlier life trauma -- the emergence of a "new" personality seems to be for some, a logical apprehension of the situation.
Interestingly, in music the word fugue implies multiple instruments (voices) that introduce the melody (personality traits) sequentially (thus suggesting motion), possibly later playing simultaneously with combinations of counter-melodies (counter-traits). There is almost certainly a linguistic relationship between these ideas (most likely the psychological notion was so named after the musical notion).
Therefore, the terminology fugue state may carry a slight linguistic distinction from dissociative fugue, the former implying a greater degree of motion. For the purposes of this article then, fugue state would be the situation of acting out a dissociative fugue.
Prevalence and onset
It has been estimated that approximately 0.2 percent of the population experiences dissociative fugue, although prevalence increases significantly following a stressful life event, such as wartime experience or some other disaster. Other life stressors may trigger a fugue state, such as financial difficulties, personal problems or legal issues. Unlike a dissociative identity disorder, a fugue is usually considered to be a malingering disorder, resolving to remove the experiencer from responsibility for their actions, or from situations imposed upon them by others. In this sense, fugues seem to be the result of a repressed wish-fulfillment. Similar to dissociative amnesia, the fugue state usually affects personal memories from the past, rather than encyclopedic or abstract knowledge. A fugue state therefore does not imply any overt seeming or "crazy" behaviour.
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