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Dissociated PTSD Survivor Can’t Remember Committing Crimes

28 Jun


I am a police officer in the U.K. I have suffered with PTSD since August 2007, after I almost shot an unarmed man. Following this incident my life went down the toilet. I ruined my marriage and everything else in my life. i have received treatment for PTSD and dissociation. However, I have discovered that during 2008 I may have committed fraud by applying for loans and running up huge credit card bills, to which I have no knowledge of, but looking at all of the evidence it is quite clear that I may have done this. I really don't know what to do as PTSD is not well known in the U.K legal system and I may find myself in the criminal court, having to explain what has happened to me to 12 jury members that have never heard of PTSD. I just don't know what to do.

Can you please help me?

Dear John,
I'm sorry about your recent difficulties.  It sounds like you're going through an incredibly difficult time.

You may have suffered from a form of dissociative amnesia, a rare occurrence, but possible and usually associated with traumatic stress.  People sometimes do things during these disconnected mind states (sometimes referred to as fugue states) that they have no memory of.  Here is a definition that may prove relevant to you:

A fugue state, formally Dissociative Fugue (previously called Psychogenic Fugue) (DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders 300.13[1]), is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (hours to days), but can last months or longer. Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity. After recovery from fugue, previous memories usually return intact but there is complete amnesia for the fugue episode. Additionally, an episode is not characterized as a fugue if it can be related to the ingestion of psychotropic substances, to physical trauma, to a general medical condition, or to psychiatric conditions such as delirium, dementia, bipolar disorder or depression. Fugues are usually precipitated by a stressful episode, and upon recovery there may be amnesia for the original stressor (Dissociative Amnesia).

Even if, as you say, the British court system is not up to speed on PTSD, they should be familiar with psychiatric testimony regarding dissociative states.  Whoever treated you for this condition (the dissociation, which may have stemmed from the posttraumatic stress) would be the appropriate expert to testify on your behalf in court.

I wish you the best of luck with a speedy and fair resolution of this.


Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award