What is dissociative leakage?

What is dissociative leakage?

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On rare occasions, some people may travel far from home and leave their lives behind them 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 has led them there. It's about the dissociative leak, a rare memory loss which causes great confusion among those affected.


  • 1 What is dissociative leakage?
  • 2 Causes of dissociative leakage
  • 3 Symptoms of dissociative leakage
  • 4 Treatment of dissociative leakage

What is dissociative leakage?

The dissociative escape is a type of amnesia of rare appearance caused by psychological traumas in which the patient loses his memory during a specific period of time and even leaves his daily life to travel far away without any 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 they are extremely stressful contextual circumstances those that can cause this temporary memory loss as an escape mechanism, causing great confusion, both in the patient and in his relatives.

Dissociative leakage 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 come to travel many kilometers away from home in a state of confusion that can last for hours or even months. Although at first the person may appear normal, then he begins to enter into a state of confusion by failing to remember his past.

The cases of dissociative escape they are not very common and those affected can move and even change 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 recover their memory again.

Causes of dissociative leakage

Dissociative escape is a psychological escape mechanism in extremely stressful and traumatic situations outside 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 person to this state of blockage and lack of memory about themselves.

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 comply with the diagnosis of dissociative leakage:

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

Symptoms of dissociative leakage

The dissociative leak 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:

  • State of confusion
  • Lack of work or the most frequented area
  • Lack of autobiographical memory. The affected person does not remember things about himself, the events and people in his life)
  • Severe stress
  • Total disconnection of one's emotions
  • Inability to recognize loved ones
  • Reach unknown places or where you never usually go
  • Depression and anxiety

Treatment of dissociative leakage

When a person has a state of dissociative leakage, medical professionals usually assess their conditions to rule out a possible physical cause for 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 achieve better management of 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 // blog / what-is-amnesia-and-types-of-amnesia /

The dissociative leak. About a case and a brief bibliographic review. Magazine of the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry. //

Dissociative fugue. //

Dissociative fugue: Symptoms, causes, and treatment. Timothy J. Legg, PhD. //


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