The moment I found out that Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder (MaDD) existed was one of the most profoundly life-changing moments of my life. Realising that other people daydream in the same way I do completely changed the way I saw myself. I was no longer weird, or broken, or a failure. I hadn’t brought this on myself by being a bad person. I simply had a brain that works slightly differently from most people’s. Daydreaming is just a natural part of who I am.
I think many daydreamers feel a similar sense of relief when they first find out they’re not alone. Finally being able to give a name to this thing that sets you apart from everyone around you is both liberating and terrifying; liberating because now you can research it and learn to manage it, but terrifying because now your secret has a name. And that may make you wonder how long it can or should remain a secret.
Whether or not you tell anyone about your daydreaming is a very personal choice. There are no right or wrong answers. But if you are struggling to decide whether or not to keep this to yourself, the following are some things you might want to consider:
What benefits are there to telling someone?
Don’t tell anyone about your daydreaming because you feel you should or because you think they have a right to know. This is your mind, your thoughts. You should only tell someone if you think the benefits to you of telling them outweigh any potential risks. This is all about what you get out of revealing your secret. So what might be in it for you?
- You might want to tell someone close to you so that you can be your authentic self around them and don’t have to feel you are keeping something back. We all like to feel understood, but how well can another person understand you when there’s this huge part of you they know nothing about? Daydreaming doesn’t define you, but it is – and always will be – a part of who you are. You might decide that you don’t want to hide any more.
- You might have decided to seek help controlling your daydreaming and want to be completely honest with your therapist. Alternatively, you might want to tell a friend or family member because you know that overcoming MaDD will be hard work, and you’d like to have their support.
- You might want to set the record straight if someone has seen you pacing or heard you talking to yourself and jumped to conclusions about what you were doing. Some of our behaviours can look very worrying to someone who doesn’t know what MaDD is.
These are all reasons you might choose to tell someone but none of them are reasons why you have to.
What are the risks?
So, there are reasons why you might choose to tell someone about your daydreaming, but there are also reasons why you might choose to keep it to yourself:
- You can’t take it back. Once you’ve told someone about your daydreaming, that person will always know. And you can’t control what they’ll do with the information. How would you feel if they told someone else, for example? If you’re going to tell someone, don’t do it on impulse just because it feels right in the moment. Think it through first.
- You can’t control how they’ll react. This isn’t daydreaming. We don’t get to decide how other people think and feel. There is still a lot of stigma and misunderstanding around mental disorders. Do you think this person cares enough about you to go on caring once they know the truth?
- You’ll have to explain what it is. Awareness of MaDD is still low. Most people have never heard of it. In one way, that works in your favour – if you tell someone, they are unlikely to have any preconceived (and probably incorrect) ideas about it. But on the other hand, it means that telling someone isn’t as straightforward as saying “I have MaDD”. You’ll need to explain what it is and how it affects you.
…And what should you do?
As I said above, that’s your choice. I didn’t find out what MaDD was until I’d been married for over 20 years. I chose to tell my husband because accepting my daydreaming is part of accepting myself and I didn’t want to keep such a huge part of me a secret from the person I share my life with. We should all be free to share who we are without shame or embarrassment, but at the same time we should all be free to keep secrets when it feels like the most comfortable and appropriate thing to do.