Police have put out an urgent appeal for missing man Andrew Lambert who has a condition called disassociative fugue which causes him to forget his former life and leave home without warning.
Devon and Cornwall police said 58-year-old Mr Lambert who is suffering from a condition known as disassociative fugue, might be in a confused state and might not even respond to his own name.
In past episodes Mr Lambert, from Cambourne in Cornwall, has been discovered in locations across the UK, including south Wales and a forest in Somerset.
Since disappearing on 5 May, Mr Lambert has been drawing money from his bank account, and is known to have travelled across England, visiting in Nottingham, Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, Lowestoft in Suffolk, Woolwich in London, Eastbourne in East Sussex, and West Malling in Kent.
The most recent information about his whereabouts is that he was in Oxford on 18 May at around 3pm.
However with his money now running out, officers told Channel 4 News they were now desperate to find him as “from here he will essentially go to a field and wait there to be found (often severely deydrated and starving).”
Mr Lambert, who is estranged from his family, went missing from Treliske Hospital in Truro, and the police have issued an image of him captured on the hospital’s CCTV cameras.
He is 6ft tall, medium build, with grey hair and a beard. He wears glasses, walks with a limp and uses a stick. He was last seen carrying a sleeping bag.
Officers believe he has primarily been using a bus pass to travel around.
Described as “very rare” by experts, people in a “fugue state” can suddenly leave home and family, with no memory of what they have left behind for as long as the fugue lasts.
Sufferers can be in a fugue state for a few hours – possibly leaving work and then realising they are at home without knowing what happened in the intervening period – or even for periods of several months.
This little understood condition is more common among people exposed to very distressing events, such as warfare or catastrophic natural disasters.
Sufferers may adopt a new identity for a while and then suddenly “recover”, realising they are out of place.
It is common for patients to have no memory of life pre-fugue, or – once recovered – life during the fugue state, making research into the condition extremely problematic.
It has been known for people with the condition to abandon their families and try to initiate new sexual relationships – provoking disbelief among relatives who may struggle to understand the depth of the amnesia being suffered.
Coming out of a fugue state can also be very traumatic.
Sam Challis, Information Manager for Mind, told Channel 4 News that “to realise, or be told by relatives, what has happened can cause panic attacks, depression and anxiety, meaning those who recover from the fugue can still be extremely unwell.”
Jeff Ingram forgot he had proposed to his fiance Penny after going missing during a fugue episode, and proposed again. In a conversation with Penny recorded by Storycorps, he told her: “it’s harder for you because you have the memories and the heartache. I just have nothing.”