Ultimate creators, isolated and disconnected from reality: Exploring the world of Maladaptive Daydreaming.

Rico Lewis

MaDDers are creators of their own stories in their head, yet that creativity and imagination chokes them. It prevents them from career advancements, harms their ability to keep and form relationships of all types, physical harm (from pacing and erratic movements during intense daydreams), and overall dissatisfaction to the point where fantasy becomes their preferred reality. This condition was discovered by Professor Eli Somer of the University of Haifa in Israel in 2002. While treating adults who’ve been sexually abused as kids, he noticed that six survivors escaped reality regularly for many hours through their imagination. So, Somer and other psychologists studied these survivors to discover the destructive nature of this condition as well. He named this phenomenon, Maladaptive Daydreaming, maladaptive is a word to express something that does more harm than good. MaDDers waste more than 4 hours in their inner world, yet this is uncontrollable, these daydreams are vivid and acts as a shield against harsh reality. As for vulnerability groups, people that are more likely to have this condition has gone through trauma, abuse, loneliness, or neglect. The signs of this condition ranges person to person, some people pace around their rooms, others express their story through facial movements and actions (including talking, which tends to be one embarrassing effect for MaDDers.), and some rock. Most MaDDers have difficulty sleeping/insomnia as daydreaming becomes an uncontrollable urge. The last reported symptom is numbness/disconnection to reality sometimes this can occur when daydreaming crashes happen. That happens when they are forced to face reality, which is stressful and overwhelming for their minds. As for triggers, music, reading, watching movies/tv shows/videos, exercising, and boredom sparks these daydreams. To sum it up, these experiences must be coped with as there is no treatment available, because there is simply not enough research for this condition. So, many people suffer in silence. Even if they ask for help, MaDD is not considered a condition yet, so, therapists and other medical officials cannot diagnose anyone this condition. In addition, they do not know what to classify the condition as, some professionals believe it is an addiction, others say it is a condition caused by other conditions, or that MaDD is its own condition sparked by trauma.

Furthermore, the lack of information for Maladaptive Daydreaming has caused many people to believe that MaDD are other similar conditions, such as, Fantasy Prone Personality, Schizophrenia, Autism, OCD, and ADHD. Even though there are some correlation in symptoms sometimes, these conditions are not completely the same. FPP, Autism, and Schizophrenia are the main conditions people confuse with MaDD. FPP is a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. They can experience hallucinations, altered memories, and intense daydreaming, they often mixed their fantasies up with reality. That is very uncommon for madders, they can tell the difference between reality and fantasy, they are aware that fantasy is completely fiction, plus hallucinations is not a symptom of MADD. Following along, Schizophrenia is condition that affects every aspect of a person, feelings, thinking, and actions. It’s an intense condition, hallucinations can be frightening, their sense of reality is discombobulated, and the feeling of numbness is common. This is extremely unlike MaDD, again, they can tell the difference between reality and fantasy and hallucinations are not a symptom caused by MaDD. Moving along, Autism can be partnered with MaDD, yet they are different because MaDD does not affect the thinking and feeling aspect of a person like Autism. Madders can express temporary feelings because of daydreaming, but Autism can make it hard for them to express emotions and detect others’, that is not a symptom for madders. Next, OCD can also be partnered up with MaDD, yet Maladaptive Daydreaming is not about routine like OCD is, both conditions do follow repetitive actions and thoughts, but again orderliness is not caused by MaDD. Lastly, ADHD is also studied to be a possible partner with MaDD, however ADHD is a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. It is difficult for madders to pay attention to an extent but that is mainly because of daydreaming, without daydreams most of them will be able to pay attention with relative ease. These conditions are alike to an extent but should not be considered one thing, however, still be mindful that some madders can have these other conditions along with MaDD, and that is just as valid.

Surprisingly, as we all are still stuck under quarantine, the increase popularity of the word “Maladaptive Daydreaming” is bringing more awareness than ever to this silent condition. We would have to thank platforms like Tiktok and Tumblr for this extra boost of recognition. On Tiktok, there are 1.7 million posts under the tag “maladaptive daydreaming”, the videos range to educational ones to using humor to cope with other madders. On Tumblr, there are thousands of posts being daily placed under the tag “MADD” or “maladaptive daydreaming/er” that are also educational, venting, and overall madders coping together. Both platforms are spreading mostly decent information on this condition, however, some posts mainly on Tiktok, are damaging towards this condition. “MaDD is for creative people”, “It’s not all that bad”, “It’s when people create imaginary worlds and people…”, these quotes increase self-mis-diagnosing and does not tell the full story of this destructive condition. It is not for creative people, it’s when people are forced to be creative by their own minds, that could be ok for some people, but it is exhausting for most. MaDDers are forced to stay in their heads while still knowing that none of their daydreams will ever come true, it’s discouraging and overwhelming. Nevertheless, MaDDers have found these platforms for comfort and laughs for a condition the medical field are not allowed to acknowledge. Terms like paras (some daydreamers feel that ‘characters’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe the people in their daydreams. So, para is used as an alternative), paracosm (an imaginary world, is quite developed and may have its own imagined geography, laws, people, places, customs, history, language, etc.), and parames (daydream selves. Short for ‘parallel me’) were created by Tumblr and passed to Tiktok, madders can finally feel understood and are truly not alone. That is a benefit within itself, yet we must be careful about the information that is being spread for MaDD. It’s a condition that is misunderstood and unknown, and we must do our diligence to keep this condition factual and pushed into public eyes.

Despite the little awareness being made for MADD now, Maladaptive Daydreaming is still one example of a neglected condition that affects people dramatically, these symptoms and the voices of sufferers need to be acknowledged. No matter how people label this condition, it is real and needs to be addressed, it is not what we should do, it is something we must do. The goal of treatments would not be to dim their imagination, rather allow it to flourish into more productive activities like writing, acting, and overall creating from their enriched paracosms, paras, and parames.