I don’t talk about this often, but it’s something that I’d like to make more of a habit of sharing. I have MADD, also known as MD, and in longer terms known as Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder. Personally, I don’t think of it as much of an issue . I find the habit helps pass the time in my daily life and cancel out unpleasant experiences. It also motivates me towards other productive endeavors like writing, exercising, and introspection. Before I go on any longer, I’ll try to explain what exactly MADD is.
Maladaptive Daydreaming was a term first coined by Eli Somer, an Israeli professor of clinical psychology, in 2002. The disorder is characterized by obsessive daydreaming that can last hours on end with little ability to pause or prevent. People who’ve identified with the disorder find that symptoms are characterized in excessive pacing, inability to prevent daydreaming, and triggers like music or quiet spaces that can induce a vivid daydream. MADD is not the same as daydreaming while riding in a car or imagining music videos for a certain song. MADD is typically tied to those who’ve experienced trauma as a coping mechanism, but ultimately is just that: a coping mechanism. If you want to read someone’s own experience with MADD (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Buzzfeed actually wrote a good article on it.
I don’t pace and I don’t always need music to fall into a daydream. I’ve been stuck in this limbo for almost a decade now, mastering the ability to conjure up sharp consistent melodies in my head and play out thorough storylines for weeks on end no matter the environment. My paras (characters) and paracosms mean a lot to me. Some characters I’ve known since I was kid, and have grown and evolved as people just as much as I have.
I really want to talk about this, give you a glimpse inside my brain. If you don’t know me all that well, this is a pretty solid start.
1. Do you use a repetitive motion to stimulate daydreams (rocking, pacing, etc.)? What is it/are they? Can you daydream without repetitive movement?
I don’t have a repetitive motion for daydreaming, which is why it’s easy for me to daydream no matter where I am. However, I don’t daydream if I’m in a social situation and I’m being directly addressed. I do daydream when I feel anxious (walking in the hallways at school or sitting around in orchestra). I also have locations that tend to be daydreaming spaces—my kitchen, my room, and my car. It’s only if I’m alone though.
2. Do your daydreams get violent? How do you feel about them? How do you respond to them?
When I was younger they could get violent or intense. I once had daydream storylines that involved my paras getting assaulted or abused. Since I’ve started high school it doesn’t go that route. I don’t think there was a particular reason why outside of playing with human emotion. It never affected me directly but I’m not sure if I could emotionally or mentally handle being in a violent situation.
3. When are your daydreams the happiest?
When I’m sleepy drunk or generally happy. Since my main paracosm surrounds the idea of a group of friends making content, it’s happiest when they’re just hanging out with each other.
4. Do you daydream in first person perspective? Do you have a parame/avatar?
Sometimes. In the main paracosm I do, but in adjacent ones, I typically don’t. It becomes more like watching a movie, because that’s what they’re explained to be: movies, videos, television shows, or online series’. I become more engaged if I daydream from a first person perspective. I don’t have a set parame, I just relate to certain characters more than others.
5. Do you have (a) linear daydream(s)? How long has it/have they been running?
All of them are linear. The longest has been since I was eight and the shortest started a few months ago. Some daydreams do eventually end and the longest running one has evolved greatly.
6. How did you discover you had madd? How do you feel about it?
I discovered it when I came across a post on dissociation. I only dissociate when I’m under too much stress at once and it’s not connected to DID. When I read about MADD I remember thinking ‘Holy crap that’s me! I thought I just had an overly active imagination.’ It was very validating and didn’t disturb me too much.
7. How do you feel about your characters/paras? Have you ever fallen in love with them?
I fall in love with anyone I care deeply about. Some I’m more connected to than others since some of them only serve a single purpose or don’t have an enriched personality (I always feel bad about that but who has the time). I don’t think I could ever fall in love with a product of my own imagination, but I think it’s affected my perspective on what I expect from any form of relationship.
8. Do you know any other MD’ers personally?
Not to my knowledge. I’m also really bad at participating in communities on or offline.
9. How did you feel about it before you knew what maladaptive daydreaming was? Did you think it was something everybody does or that you were unique?
I always thought I was unique, that I just had imaginary friends that just made life more interesting. Every now and again it would upset me because of the fact that it’s not real and I didn’t feel comfortable mentioning it to people since I could never figure out how to describe it.
10. What most influences your daydreams? Realtime events? Books? Movies?
A mix of everything but more so stories. They could come from music (concept albums), books, and movies/shows (rarely). People or specific characters have an easier time finding their way into my daydreams.
11. If you have a parame, please describe them. Are they much like you? How do you feel about them?
I already addressed not having a parame but there are a few characters that I’ll connect to more easily. Generally those characters tend to be a little neurotic, calming and/or cold in nature, and take on dominating positions. They’re never exactly like me, more like different variations of my personality. The closest one to me is Galia—has anxiety, is a writer, and tends to act overly mature or maternal. We’re not quite the same and I usually imagine her being shorter and cuter than I am. But we’re both black and female, and she’s the para I’v e had the longest.
12. Do you have favorite paras? Why are they your favorites?
Yes. It depends on what story I’m stuck on at the moment or if I’m developing their personality. Currently my favorite para is Savannah Carpenter. I’ve come to like her because of how off-putting her personality should be. She’s very distant and has a very mean, deadpan sense of humor but she’s so talented that everyone kind of ignores it. My all time favorite is Jordan Mills. He’s alway been a comfort to me and has taken on a guardian angel type role.
11. How old are the majority of your paras?
The age range of those that matter is 17-22 on average. It’s sensible since it’s easier for me to imagine how people around that age interact because those are the people I’m around. I’ve always had a tendency to imagine people way older than me and it’s only recently that they’ve come to be my age.
12. If you could give your paras any advice, what would you tell them?
Don’t try to control what cannot be controlled. Believe in your abilities and do what you can when you can. That’s am everyone kind of thing
13. Do your paras appear in a style other than realistic? For example, like anime or in the style of a video game?
No. It’s too weird for me.
14. Do you have OCs?
A majority of my paras are OCs but there are non OCs too. The non OCs are usually from things I’m obsessed with. Once they’re acknowledged they remain apart of the main paracosm forever. It also makes sense since I imagine things as apart of our current reality with a bit of leeway around usual conventions. However, the more time progresses the more realistic my paracosm becomes.
15. Are any of your paras adopted from existing fiction? From real life?
Yes. I’m not going to say from where. You can draw assumptions from what I’m obsessed with at the time if you want.
16. Where do you get names for your paras?
The older ones were random chance or adopted from real people until they evolved away from the person they were inspired by. The newer ones have slightly more meaningful names by like a fraction. Some have names that I might use in the future.
17. Do your paras have tragic backstories? Will you share a few?
Yes, the main ones. I’ll go through some of them:
Galia (Gigi): Born in Huntsville, Kansas, moved to Encino, California around age 8. Has three siblings named April, Katelyn, and Nathaniel. Nathaniel who’s nine years older than her died at age 18. Katelyn who is now seven to eight years older (she was originally Gigi’s twin) is the stable one of their family and grew up to become a counseling psychiatrist. April who is now four years older (used to be four years younger) was a depressive and suicidal teen who eventually turned around and grew up to work successfully in fashion. Galia has severe General Anxiety Disorder and eventually started seeing a therapist age fifteen and soon after took medication. She also has milder OCD and is generally characterized with high functioning neuroticism. She’s nineteen and trying her best.
Desiree (Dez): She only goes by Dez. I imagine her real name might be an identity trigger for her. She was born and raised in Brazil until age eight when she moved to the U.S. to live with her dad. Her family has a long heritage of hierarchy leaving a family head for each generation. As a child she lived with the family head for a short amount of time and was subjected to abuse that she doesn’t speak of even as an adult. Coming to America she knew little English and wasn’t able to befriend other ELL children due to not knowing anything other than Portuguese. She eventually made friends with Camille and they’ve been close ever since. She hadn’t learned to cope with her childhood trauma until a couple of years ago. She’s twenty and grinding.
Sophia: Sophia’s backstory is more gapped. The worst she had experienced as a kid was polio and the experience brought her to her closest friend for the time. As a teenager she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during a severe depressive episode that nearly ended her life. She’s doing pretty well for herself now running a media company. Sophia’s backstory is the closest to my own “sad backstory.”
18. Are any of your paras deceased? How did they die? How did you feel?
In the main paracosm, no. They either move, stop working or simply disappear. In the adjacent universes, there’s a higher chance of death and it happens in all sorts of ways (supernatural, realistic, etc.). It doesn’t hurt me too much since it’s just me writing out a story in my head.
19. Are your paras human? Mortal?
Right now, everyone is. For a small fraction of time they were monsters with different abilities. I prefer human paras simply because it’s more accessible and I like playing with reality.
20. Have any of your paras ever completely disappeared/vanished from the daydream world? Is there a story behind it or was it an unconscious occurrence? Do you think they might return? Do you want them to?
All the time, whenever they no longer serve an ideal purpose or there’s other characters that fulfill their role in a superior way. I don’t really want them to return when they do since it makes it harder for me to keep track of and properly develop everyone.
21. Have your characters committed a crime? Have they been to jail? Are they legally innocent? Are they socially innocent?
Yes. I can’t remember thinking out a jailing sequence, but since I daydream stories, conflict has to arise. There’s lighter crimes like underaged driving and heavier ones like assault or murder. I haven’t thought through a story like that recently enough to remember the consequence given. The most recent “crime” was when one of my characters was actively giving access to confidential government files while also actively manipulating his friends to involve themselves in unsafe situations. They’re both still very upset with him, but he still works as a government historian.
22. Do your paras often find themselves in dangerous situations? How/why? Do they go looking for trouble? Does trouble look for them?
A lot of my paras tend to act out in a self destructive manner when conflict arises. Some situations are dangerous physically while others are dangerous mentally (involving themselves in toxic relationships etc.). Usually it’s the fault of hubris.
23. What do you associate with your paras? Colors? Smells? Words?
Everything. They have whole personalities with different aethetics, different senses of fashion, different interest/aspirations. The only thing that doesn’t differentiate very well is taste in music.
24. Has a para ever broken your heart? Have you ever broken theirs (through a parame)?
I don’t get involved directly in a paracosm. People get hurt just like in reality because the paracosm is based in reality. I like bringing characters pain in general whether I’m writing or daydreaming.
25. Has a para ever made you physically cry?
Not because of something within the paracosm.
26. Do you act out your daydreams? Do you speak to/through your paras out loud?
Yes. I’m trying to stop doing that.
27. Have you ever been caught daydreaming?
Multiple times. Fun fact: Every time I’m asked if I’m talking to myself I lose half of my life force.
28. What do you most dislike about being a maladaptive daydreamer? Are there things you like about it?
The only thing I don’t like about it is having too many stories in my head that I can’t write down. Otherwise, I’ve come to deeply appreciate it. Maybe therapy will change my mind.
29. Briefly describe a daydream.
I had a daydream going about Agneau, the story of a boy named Joshua who’s the son of a cult leader. I’m not going to elaborate because I’m actually writing it out. However working through a daydream helps me formulate worlds better for my writing.
30. Do you daydream to music? Is music a necessity to daydream? Do you wear headphones? How loud do you keep the volume?
I daydream intensely to music. I once spent a nine hour car ride daydreaming to pass the time. It isn’t a necessity for me and I have to wear headphones to daydream along. I never let the volume go past 3/4 unless there’s too much outside noise.
31. Do you have models/faceclaims for your paras?
Sometimes. For example, Moebe (pronounced like Moby Dick) looks like this:
I don’t always have specific faces for all my paras but I do know what they’re supposed to look like. If they end up in my writing like Moebe has it’s more distinct.
32. Does daydreaming energize or exhaust you?
Energizes. It’s socializing but without the anxiety and provides all the adrenaline that writing or watching a good movie provides me.
33. Do you think there is a pattern/correlation between your daydreams and how you daydream them? For example, are your daydreams more violent when you’re lying down?
Not in that aspect. It’s more like the setting can be affected based on where I am. Sometimes the interactions are too, but that’s pretty rare.
34. Do you have distinct daydream triggers? Do your daydreams come and go as they please?
If I’m alone I’m gonna daydream. I only stop when I’m working on something or around other people. Even if I’m in a crowd I’m imagining a character next to me. It eases my anxiety and makes things more interesting. I’m pretty in control still. If I feel like being alone than I’m alone as myself.
35. Does your mood affect the amount of time you spend daydreaming? Or their intensity?
If I’m feeling too sad or anxious I can’t daydream. The sleepier I am, the more I daydream.
36. Have you ever had daydream block? How did you feel? How did you break it?
Sometimes. I usually just come up with a new story or force something interesting to happen. It’s like writer’s block for me. I just have to poke at it until it shatters. If it lasts too long I can start to feel dazed and numb.
37. Have you ever had abusive paras? If it is not too sensitive to share, will you tell us about your experience with them?
38. Do your paras directly affect you in thisverse? Do you only interact with them in fictional scenarios or do you find yourself reaching for them in realtime, too? For example, do you converse with them mentally when facing a difficult situation?
Sometimes if I’m getting ready to enter an unpleasant situation I’ll use fictional scenarios to make them bearable. For example, if a school day is particularly daunting or I’m too jaded to get through the day, I’ll pretend that I’m bringing along a person to shadow me as I walk from class to class.
39. Do you only daydream fantasy? Do you dream about thisverse?
I mainly daydream in reality, just not my reality. My main parcosm isn’t set in my home state. It’s been set in other places like LA or NYC or even Salem, Oregon. When I’m traveling I’ll imagine it to be set where I’m travelling to. It just doesn’t make sense for the main paracosm to be in my home state since they work in entertainment.
The adjacent paracosms are usually set in a futuristic version of our universe. A future where the government has shut down and archived the internet. A future where there’s a desolate wasteland of a city. Other times it’s just a vague story setting like the suburbs.
40. Do you do research for your daydreams? How much? How often? How deep?
If I end up writing them I do. I also research once aspects of reality come in, but not purposely for the daydream. It bothers me in general when a story has inaccuracies if I can help it.
41. What was your first maladaptive daydreaming experience? Do you remember it? How did you feel about it?
I remember it, but I won’t recap it. It was weird but I was so young but I don’t think it bothered me.
42. When did you know what you did was different?
As soon as I realized that people a) grow out of their imaginary friends and b) that imaginary friends weren’t supposed to be fully formed people ten years older than you.
43. Do you ever daydream through the perspectives of paras of the opposite sex? How is it?
No. I definitely have full control over how they act, just not from a first person point of view.
44. Do you experience any confusion between fantasy and reality? Does daydreaming leave you in a haze or in a dazed state?
No, I tend to have a very firm grip between my daydreams and my real life. I think it’s mainly because I’ve always kept myself out of my daydreams as a prevention because I know subconsciously that if I don’t I’d get too easily sucked into them.
45. If you have a parame, do you experience any dysphoria because of them?
I don’t have one.
46. Do you ever rewind your daydreams and re-daydream old material?
If it’s a music video sequence, yes. I also do it if I’m starting a new storyline and I’m trying to iron out the kinks,
47. Do you remember your daydreams in detail?
48. Do you edit your daydreams? To what extent? How often/how much does your brain block you from controlling things?
I change details like I did with Galia if it helps everything else make more sense. I also change details to line up with the real world when I can, but other times I don’t care enough because it’s literally me entertaining myself, so who cares. I also find that the more imperfect things are, the easier it is for me to hold onto reality.
49. Do you get excited when you see or hear a para’s name in thisverse? When you see someone who looks like them? When you see something you associate with them?
I don’t remember seeing anyone who looks like an OC but I’d be unnerved if I did. I love meeting people who have less common OC names and if an OC is based off of someone in any way, it makes me feel more connected to them. I don’t associate things actively with OCs since they’re usually aesthetics or topics I enjoy.
50. How might you describe maladaptive daydreaming to someone who does not experience it?
It’s daydreaming if your daydreams ran like a movie that you could never turn off and are constantly trying not to watch.
I feel it’s important to remind you that I’m just one person and that MADD affects everybody differently. Hopefully it will be added to the next DSM as a disorder but as for now there is still speculation over its legitimacy. But with each day and each emerging anecdote we see, MADD may be more of a reality than anyone could have imagined it to be.
I hope you gained insight into the mind of a maladaptive daydreamer with my answers.