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Insights on Stress May Offer Clues in Case : Specialists point to some of the problems that result when people are pushed too far.

March 30, 1995|LEONARD REED

No one connected to Taylor Kramer's case is ruling out any possibility. But investigators and family members share the abiding sense that Kramer is alive and lost somewhere in Greater Los Angeles--that some form of amnesia or confusion may cripple his abilities to find his way home. If that is the case, he may be living as a homeless person.

Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists interviewed for this story declined to speculate about Kramer's state. But they did offer insight into some of the problems people face when stress pushes them too far.

Dr. Lawrence Gross, a USC psychiatrist specializing in homeless populations, cites recent studies that found an estimated 75% of all homeless people are impaired either from debilitating psychosis or drug use.

Dr. Richard Reinhart, a clinical psychologist practicing in Ventura, when asked about amnesia, was clear in differentiating between the popularly known Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS) and other disorders in which memory is impaired. PTS, he said, is typically linked with a well-defined single traumatic event such as surviving in a war as others are killed.

If PTS is an unlikely candidate in Kramer's case, another disorder that conforms more closely to the expectations of Kramer's family and associates is Dissociative Fugue. The American Psychological Assn. cites the disorder's essential features as sudden, unexpected travel away from home with an inability to recall part or all of one's past; confusion about personal identity; and impaired social and occupational performance, although sufferers appear to be without psychopathology and do not attract attention. Drug use or medical illness are not associated with Dissociative Fugue.

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