Since the end of 19th century, mental health professionals have noticed that individuals who have experienced traumatic situations often present dissociative symptoms, such as amnesia or fugue states. Dissociation is a defensive mechanism that allows an individual to separate from conscience the psychological distress produced by the trauma. Our aim was to remark the association between Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and long-term dissociative disorders through the study of a clinical case.
A clinical case was followed and reviewed to illustrate this relationship.
Ten years ago, a 49-year-old man was diagnosed of PTSD after having witnessed several colleagues burnt in a tragic accident at work and having helped the emergency fire brigade to rescue other victims. His symptoms required treatment with antidepressants and psychotherapy, and fully remitted after one year. Nevertheless, during the last year, he has presented two dissociative amnesia episodes lasting for three days each, which were examined by a neurology service. More recently, he has suffered a ten-day episode of dissociative fugue, which required psychiatric hospitalization. Although the patient has been asymptomatic during a decade, it is remarkable that he has presented three dissociative episodes in a short period of time. One of them, the fugue state, is interesting because of its long duration and its relatively low prevalence in the general population.
This clinical case allows us to appreciate the long-term relationships between psychological trauma and dissociation, in addition to the well-known short-term effects.