I first came across the phrase, maladaptive daydream disorder (MDD) three years ago while trying to find out if I was normal or going crazy. I used to type things such as: "roaming mind" and "absentmindedness" and "out of control fantasizing." Then, I came across a mailing list, which led me to the tumblr page, and reading it, I knew I found a name for my problem.
I initially feared I was coming down with schizophrenia, or that I existed on the spectrum somewhere, and when I contacted a psychiatrist about it (I was that worried), she asked me all the regular questions -- do you hear voices? No. Do you feel like hurting someone? No. Okay, then you are fine, she said. No one diagnosed me with anything, even when I told her I had difficulty controlling my roaming mind.
Still, I was normal. But, normal people didn't put themselves to bed by exhausting their minds with lavish tales of adventures. I knew this, and for the longest time I felt shame, especially if I let slip a word, or pace or flail my hand (which is characteristic of MDD). People like me live in our heads, and in our headspace are worlds filled with daily adventures and lavish tales of grandeur. The closest thing I'd ever seen that captured MDD was the short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the two films drift from the original writing) about a man who has five daydream episodes while he waits for his wife who has gone to the beauty parlor..
People who suffer from MDD can have ten different adventures all in an hour. We could be off saving lives in a hospital, skiing in the Swiss Alps, traversing an apocalyptic landscape ala Katniss Everdeen or trying to save fantasy worlds from orcs and evil sorcerers.
You may say, what's so bad about having a great imagination? The problem with MDD is that we can't control when we slip into a daydream. True, that if we're busy, we don't daydream, but the moment we're not occupied with real world acts, our minds drift. It can happen anywhere and anytime, and we can't control it; although, sometimes we can will it to happen, as I often do before bed. I choose my adventure--which character do I want to be tonight. MDD also means we have trouble getting out of bed. Many of us have laid in bed for hours daydreaming--no joke. The most embarrassing part is the involuntary movements (pacing/flailing hands) and vocal outbursts --blurting things aloud.
The thing is -- I can daydream as a character in one of my stories, or as myself. It's not unusual for me to become a character when I'm reading about that character. This involves putting myself in the action as the main protagonist. But, I can be me in a story, too. For example: when I see a group of skateboarders, I picture myself as a skateboarder (usually MJF-ish in Back to the Future) cruising on a futuristic skateboard that defies gravity.
It's important to understand that people who suffer from MDD know the worlds in our heads aren't real. We don't hear voices, though we may speak aloud in response to a character in our story.
PS. Maladaptive Daydream Disorder (MDD) is not medically recognized by the DSM.-5, and many have dismissed it as another form of ADD, or as a kind of borderline personality/anti-social disorder, and reports suggest ADD medication can help with it. Nonetheless, I have reasons to believe, it's a new condition on its own.
More on MDD:
"When she was just a girl, she expected the world. But it flew away from her reach, so she ran away in her sleep." -ColdPlay.