Dissociative fugue is a misunderstood condition requiring specific medical treatment. There are several options for treating dissociative fugue when it occurs.
Since dissociative fugue is fairly rare, treatment options vary depending on the individual and the specific circumstances of their fugue. In most cases, an individual will not receive treatment during their fugue state but will need treatment once they become aware of their state or memories return of their previous life. Because dissociative fugue is a subtype of dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue treatment often overlaps with its parent condition. One of the main commonalities in treating dissociative fugue is to address underlying stressors that potentially caused the fugue state.
One of the most common treatments for dissociative fugue includes different forms of psychotherapy. In simple terms, psychotherapy is known as talk therapy and is a space where individuals discuss their thoughts, feelings, emotions and anything else that has been on their mind, with their therapist of choice. Therapy for dissociative disorders may also extend beyond individual sessions to family or group settings. Psychotherapy for dissociative fugue also sometimes encompasses different creative therapies where individuals are encouraged to use their imagination and think outside the box to restore memories.
Common methods of psychotherapy used to address dissociative fugue include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on understanding emotions and modifying behaviors. CBT for dissociative disorders, including dissociative fugue, can be extremely helpful in providing relief from stressors that lead to dissociation.
- Group Therapy: Group therapy after experiencing dissociative fugue may be useful for some individuals. Since dissociative fugue is rare, it is unlikely that everyone in group therapy will have experienced this type of dissociation. Nevertheless, talking to individuals that share similar experiences often helps a person feel less isolated.
- Family Therapy: Family therapy may be beneficial if the individual who experienced dissociative fugue has a positive relationship with their family members. However, if the stressor that induced a fugue state is directly related to family issues such as a divorce or sudden death in the family, this type of therapy should be used with caution.
- Creative Therapy: Creative therapy may help an individual relax or channel their nervous energy into positive outlets. Alternatively, it can help individuals express their feelings and emotions during and after the fugue state in a different way than talk therapy typically allows. Creative therapies include music and art therapy like taking photos, making collages and painting.
Unfortunately, medication is unlikely to resolve a fugue state. Once an individual remembers their old life and previous self, medication may be helpful for those struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction or other co-occurring disorders as a result of experiencing the fugue.
For individuals who choose to try medication after their fugue state, some of the most commonly prescribed medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are typically used to treat anxiety or depression, though there are many other types of medication that can help a person through this difficult time. Following a fugue, medication may ease the transition from the fugue state to a person’s previous life.
Hypnosis is a technique that can be employed for dissociative amnesia and dissociative fugue. However, hypnosis treatment for dissociative disorders may not always be an effective means of restoring memories while in an amnestic or fugue state.
In some cases, memories will naturally come back to a person, particularly if they recover in an environment that is both safe and supportive. A therapist may employ hypnosis techniques, sometimes with the aid of a sedative, in the event that the fugue state was brought about by or included experienced trauma. It is important that therapists not suggest that certain events happened so as to not create false or exaggerated memories in the patient. The overall goal of hypnosis is to recover lost memories or restore the patient’s life narrative in the most accurate way possible so that they can recover from this experience.
Stress Management Techniques
Stress management may be an effective way to help individuals that experienced a fugue state in the recent past. Often times, therapy will include learning different coping skills to deal with stress, anxiety, depression and other co-occurring conditions. Some examples of stress management techniques and coping skills include:
- Practicing meditation
- Practicing yoga and other recreational activities
- Deep breathing exercises
- Writing about thoughts, feelings and emotions in a journal
- Talking openly with others
- Spending time with animals
- Spending time in nature
- Playing sports or participating in other forms of exercise
- Getting involved in the community
- Volunteering for an important cause
Treating Dissociative Fugue and Co-Occurring Conditions
While dissociative fugue can co-occur with other conditions like anxiety, depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, having an accurate understanding of what caused the fugue state is extremely important to a person’s recovery. It is important to remember that managing stress levels can immensely help a person recover from a fugue state.
If you or a loved one live with recurrent dissociative fugue episodes and co-occurring addiction, The Recovery Village can help. Contact a representative today to discuss therapy options for treating both conditions together.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.