Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I don't want to be intruding on Shrink Rap's territory, but I thought this story was interesting. (I'm not a psychiatrist, I only play one on this blog).

Jeff Ingram left Olympia, Washington, on September 6th to drive to Alberta, Canada to visit a friend (Washington Post). He never showed up there. Somehow, he ended up in Denver for a month, and didn't know who he was or where he was.
Ingram's identity came to light last weekend after he appeared on several news shows asking the public for help: "If anybody recognizes me, knows who I am, please let somebody know."
So, the guy's fiancee calls the television station to identify him and they were reunited Monday in Seattle. That's the end of the story, right? NOT - Apparently, this is not the first time this has happened.
Ingram had experienced an episode of amnesia in 1995 when he disappeared during a trip to a grocery store. Nine months later, he was found in a Seattle hospital, according to Thurston County, Wash., officials. His mother said he never fully regained his memory.
When I first heard this story, I totally thought that this guy was making this up -- for attention -- kind of like the whole runaway bride thing a year and a half ago. Apparently, his story is true. And, there is a clinical diagnosis for Jeff Ingram's condition called dissociative fugue.
Dissociative fugue, formerly called psychogenic fugue, is one of a group of conditions called dissociative disorders. The word fugue comes from the Latin word for "flight." People with dissociative fugue temporarily lose their sense of personal identity and impulsively wander or travel away from their homes or places of work. People with dissociative fugue often become confused about who they are and might even create new identities. Outwardly, people with this disorder show no signs of illness, such as a strange appearance or odd behavior.

Dissociative disorders are mental illnesses that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, conscious awareness, identity and/or perception. When one or more of these functions is disrupted, symptoms can result. These symptoms can interfere with a person’s general functioning, including social and work activities, and relationships.
I admit I had to dust off the textbook to re-learn about fugue. Interesting story. In 10 years, I wonder if we're going to hear another story from this guy when his fugue strikes again.


Ian said...

This has been a pretty big news story around here. Kind of a nice switch from school shootings and political garbage, really.


Anonymous said...

I live in a shoe. I didn't hear about this until it was old news. I swear I had nothing to do with it though.

Hey Ian, cool to run into another Front Range blogger on someone else's blog ;)

Dinah said...

You will, of course, stop at Ghiardelli Square and eat a hot fudge sundae in my honor???

Interesting story. It is a diagnosis, but I've only once seen a patient--who actually had a very similar story-- his family put it as "Ever ten years or so, he takes a trip." The patient, however, had clear cut Bipolar Disorder and since Manic Patients often travel (I have several stories here) I chalked it up to Mania---the patient was manic at the time and while he didn't know who he was when found, once his memory returned, he did remember his adventure--...though I agree that your typical manic patient does not lose his/her memory even for brief periods.

The issue of dissociative states is a complex one that arouses some skepticism among some psychiatrists, so while it's in the DSM, there is not agreement in the field as to whether dissociative states constitute a valid diagnosis or can be explained by other phenomena.

In this case, I'd have to wonder if something else is going on that explains his amnestic syndrome. I'll refrain from other comments on the specific case until after I examine him!

Was that more than you wanted? Go, eat that sundae, since you'll be injesting my vacarious calories, please make it an extra large and no nuts. +/- on the cherry.

HVS said...

Intruging- especially since I recently watched the movie Unknown White Male. (its a true story about a guy who experiences permanent, unexplained amnesia) It's weird.

Matt said...

When I was in college one of my professors told a story about dissociative fugue. It turns out that his (the professor's) wife had experienced an intense emotional period that erased much of her memory and compelled her to return to her childhood home. It sounded straight out of a movie but it was very real.

NeoNurseChic said...

Kinda makes me wonder about that pianist guy that turned up wandering some beach in England. He didn't speak at all and therefore could not tell anyone who he was. When they took him to some ward, he ended up sitting down at the piano and playing away. They thought maybe he'd had some kind of break - like the main character of Shine who had that nervous breakdown when trying to learn the Rach 3 over and over. I've actually heard someone (who was my age) play the Rach 3 - I think you have to already be mentally unstable to have a total nervous breakdown over one piano piece...but then, I'm no psychiatrist either!

There were days when piano made me lose my mind - but not quite in that way! ;)

L K Tucker said...

This is a year old story but there are others missing.

College students such as Brain Shaffer and Maura Murray are two examples.

Ahmad Arain, UCLA, disappeared but recovered enough to remember his email address. He was found wandering Mexico in an altered mental state.

VisionAndPsychosis.Net has published a cause of these mental events. Sublimial Distraction was discovered when it caused mental breaks for office workers in the 1960's. The cubicle was designed to deal with the vision startle reflex and the mental breaks stopped where they are used.

No school warns students of this forty year old discovery. They don't know it exists.

Simple precautions would prevent these disappearances and suicides.


Larah said...

Interesting to read all of this