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ADHD Fugue

You're getting sleepy, very sleepy ...
You’re getting sleepy, very sleepy …

Is there a state of mind that occurs for ADHDers that could be termed a fugue, or maybe a mini fugue? I think maybe there is, but I’m willing to set my reasoning out before the world and see what is made of it.

Lets start with what a fugue is, shall we?

psychogenic fugue – n., dissociative disorder in which a person forgets who they are and leaves home to create a new life; during the fugue there is no memory of the former life; after recovering there is no memory for events during the dissociative state.

Yes, that’s about right …

Okay, I’ve never actually left home with no memory of my life thus far, then started a new life, only to forget that and return to the original one, totally forgetting about the new one … I’ve only done that figuratively … in my mind. I virtually dissociate.

A dissociative disorder is “dissociation so severe that the usually integrated functions of consciousness and perception of self break down” … that’s not us, not really, so this isn’t a disorder (dodged another bullet, it’s not like we needed another disorder,eh?).

Simple dissociation, though, is “a state in which some integrated part of a person’s life becomes separated from the rest of the personality and functions independently.” Now we’re getting somewhere.

It’s my mind that dissociates

I’ve chosen to refer to the situation I’m talking about as a fugue state because I had always been led to understand a fugue to be a dissociation from the present, current reality. That happens to me often enough. I catch myself being dissociated from my surroundings and my life all the time. It’s not unlike Billy Pilgrims time travelling in Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s epic tale Slaughterhouse 5, only I can’t travel forward in time. I go to alternate dimensions, parallel universes.

Understand, this dissociation occurs more frequently if I’m tired. But I need not be tired for it to happen. And I need not be bored. I need not be anything at all. I’ll just be distracted. And then I’ll be gone. … and then I’ll be back.

Will ye nae come back again?

According to the definition of a psychogenic fugue, the state in which one dissociates from their lives is one in which they continue to function, they just don’t remember their previous life, until the condition rectifies. My ADHD fugue is more like a child creating a world in a sand box, I completely forget that time moves on while I’m in my simulated world. Of course, this “new world” I create is a virtual one. Now that I’m grown up, I don’t need the sand box, my virtual world is constructed in my mind. And it may be exactly like my real one, or it may be a completely different world from mine.

This sounds like day dreaming …

Yes, it does. And yes, it is. But the dissociation from my real life is pretty complete. It’s like REM day dreaming. Whether the day dream I’m focusing on is a completely new world or just slightly different, I cannot bring myself back easily. And I won’t be brought back happily if I’m jarred out of my mind’s sand box by someone else. Remember, I don’t transition well.

Of note is the fact that a time when I am more susceptible to ADHD fugue is when I’m reading. I can read anywhere from a paragraph to a page while my mind is wandering elsewhere.  But that’s just the convenience of stimulation, I can go into a fugue anytime.

What about you?

ADHD Fugue

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). ADHD Fugue. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Aug 2013
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