Maladaptive daydreaming is a hard condition to handle alone. That’s why one of the most difficult decisions to make is whether to tell someone else about MD.
But as much as maladaptive daydreamers need a support system to get better, opening themselves up to their friends and family is not always simple. Many times they don’t know what to expect or how others will react, or they’re unsure if telling anyone will make a difference.
If you’re thinking about “coming out of the closet,” it’s best to have a clear idea of what to expect. It’s important to look at all of the factors involved so that when you do make a choice, it will be the right one for you.
Why Maladaptive Daydreamers Stay Quiet
If you’ve ever explored popular online hangouts for maladaptive daydreamers, you’ll notice a common theme. The majority of posters will say that they’ve never said a word about their MD to anyone they know.
To an outsider, this might seem confusing. After all, if maladaptive daydreaming is so distressing, why wouldn’t people who suffer from it reach out for help?
Despite how unusual it seems, there are many reasons why people with maladaptive daydreaming keep their struggles a secret. Here are just a few of them.
We don’t want to get too personal.
Daydreaming by nature is a private affair, the contents of which are known only to the dreamer. Even people without MD don’t always share what they’re thinking about when their minds are wandering.
One concern many maladaptive daydreamers have about being open is losing their privacy. They fear that once they start talking about MD, they’ll be forced to expose specific details about their daydreams.
As maladaptive daydreamers, much of what we fantasize about is difficult to admit to out loud. While some dreams are lighthearted and fun, others we connect to on a much deeper level. They might reveal an inner desire we have, or a different side to our personality. A number of dreams may even have dark undertones.
Having to open up about any of these things feels like revealing our soul – and we don’t want to do that unless we’re in a safe environment.
Society looks down on daydreamers.
We’re often told that creativity and innovation are our keys to success. We hear that future employers look for people who can think outside the box. However, this is only true when those qualities serve the status quo. In this world, productivity is what counts. Imagination is only useful if it can be used to make a profit.
Society’s obsession with results is why daydreaming is often viewed in a negative light. Because daydreaming itself does not provide any tangible benefit, it is not perceived as highly valuable.
The sad thing is, this attitude prevails even within our own families. It’s socially acceptable for us to fantasize when we’re children, but once we grow into adolescence and adulthood, we’re expected to do something more productive with our time.
Because we don’t want to be perceived as immature or lazy, it’s more comfortable to keep our daydreaming problem to ourselves.
There’s a stigma around mental illness.
Anyone who has ever suffered with a chronic mental illness will tell you how complicated it is to navigate social circles. When others hear that you have any sort of mental issues, instead of offering support, they are more inclined to avoid you. Worse still, people who struggle with mental illness are looked down upon and labeled “broken” or “defective”.
Because mental illness is invisible, it’s not given the same respect as any other disease. Consequently, people who are suffering don’t get much sympathy. They’re told that they need to “stop whining and get over it.”
Maladaptive daydreaming in many ways is just like other mental illnesses. It’s a struggle that’s invisible to those who don’t suffer from it, and one that’s not always acknowledged by the people around us.
Advantages of Being Open
Like just about anything in life, coming out of hiding about MD has its pros and cons. Let’s look at the advantages first.
You can find support for your struggles.
The strongest benefit to telling someone about your maladaptive daydreaming is that you’ll have access to support. The best avenue is through meeting with a doctor or therapist, since they are the most qualified to treat mental illnesses.
Although most aren’t trained to treat MD specifically, mental health professionals can still help you manage some of your symptoms. Plus, since everything you say is confidential, you don’t have to worry about anyone you know finding out about your MD.
However, sometimes its easier to share your feelings with a close friend. If you’re having a hard day and you want to vent, he or she can give you encouragement. A friend can also you stay focused if you’re trying to cut down on the daydreaming.
You can experience catharsis.
The worst part about keeping MD a secret is feeling like you have to lie, or be ashamed. After all, maladaptive daydreaming can make for some pretty embarrasing moments. Many of us have had to come up with inventive ways to explain our pacing, talking out loud, or crying at random moments.
In the beginning, covering our tracks is only a minor annoyance, but after doing it for years, it gets tiring. Once we open up, however, we don’t have to do that anymore. While the problems might still be there, at least we’ll be in a better emotional place to handle them.
You can increase awareness about maladaptive daydreaming.
One of the main reasons we even know about maladaptive daydreaming today is due to the handful of brave souls who were willing to share their experiences with another person. Because of their courage, we have more research devoted to studying the condition, which will hopefully lead to more resources for people who are struggling.
When we are open about our experiences, we give others the opportunity to learn something they wouldn’t have otherwise. Through this process, you can educate about what maladaptive daydreaming is and dispel the misconceptions some people have about it.
There are many people in the world who struggle with maladaptive daydreaming, but don’t know that others feel the same way. Talking openly about MD can help them feel less alone in the world.
Disadvantages of Being Open
Of course, opening up about maladaptive daydreaming isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some downsides to sharing your story:
It’s a one-way street.
The bad part about disclosure is that once you share something, you can’t unshare it. Once you spill the beans, there’s simply no going back.
The only option you’re left with is dealing with the consequences as best you can – which is not always simple. This is especially true if you happen to talk to the wrong person. If you have a friend or family member who’s not the best at keeping secrets, he or she might start telling others about your MD. Depending on the social circle you’re in, your reputation could take a hit. You might be left doing some serious damage control.
You might end up misunderstood.
From the outside, daydreaming doesn’t seem like anything that can be harmful. It’s not immediately obvious how addicting it can be, or how it stops people from living normal lives. Because of this, your friends and family may not understand just how serious your MD is.
Some of them may simply shrug it off. Others who are more compassionate will try to help you, but their advice may do more harm than good. A number of people don’t understand the emotional roadlblocks that keep someone trapped in addictions, so they come up with superficial answers that don’t address the problem. They might think that all a maladaptive daydreamer needs to do is “try harder” or “think positive.”
The worse case scenario is having to deal with judgmental attitudes. No matter how hard you try to explain, some people will already have their minds made up. They’ll convince themselves that you’re just making excuses for other issues, or that you’re trying to get attention. You’ll have to deal with constant tension in your personal relationships, making them more complicated than you ever thought they would be.
Should You Come Out of the Closet?
So should you admit to the world that you have a problem with daydreaming? Well, it depends. Because every person’s circumstances are different, you need to consider your unique situation and your own needs. Generally it’s a good idea to think long and hard about your decision so that you’re not left with any regrets.
However, there is one situation where telling someone is always a good idea. If you feel like your MD has become distressing to the point that you can’t function at all, it’s critical that you reach out to someone. If this is you, I’ve outlined a few steps that you can follow to make the process easier.
1. Analyze your situation first.
What kind of people are in your social circle? Do you have access to a medical professional? What’s the worst thing that can happen? What do you risk losing? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you prepare for any unintended consequences.
2. Prepare ahead of time.
Before you speak to anyone, think about what you will say and how you will say it. Keep in mind that most people have never heard of maladaptive daydreaming before. Consider using terms that are more familiar, like “excessive daydreaming” or “daydreaming addiction”. It also helps if you have scientific studies or articles ready – if you want a few to start with, use this 2002 study, or this one published earlier this year.
3. Speak with someone you trust.
If going to a doctor is not an option for you, then make sure that the person you tell is someone you feel comfortable confiding in. Even if their reaction isn’t the most ideal, there will be less damage to deal with.
4. Share only what is necessary.
There’s no law that says you have to bear your soul. There’s no need to reveal everything, especially if it makes you uncomfortable. If you want to, just share the important details, and leave the rest out.
Telling someone about your MD is never an easy choice to make. One one hand, opening up can bring healing not only to ourselves, but to the people around us. But on the other hand, it can make working through MD more difficult.
No matter what you choose, do what’s best for you. Make sure your choice is one you can live with – and one that will bring you closer to recovery.
Question: Have you ever told anyone about your maladaptive daydreaming? Do you feel that your decision was the right one for you?