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Travel addiction is real! Introducing “Dromomania” and “Drapetomania” (Mad Travelers Disease!)

Do you suffer from either one of these travel compulsions? Read on to find out.


The term Dromomania comes from the Greek “dromos” (running) and “mania” (insanity) and was considered a real mental disorder in the 1880s through to  the early 20th century in France. The illness, also known as “Mad Travellers Disease”, was attributed to a handful of people who were hospitalized after impulsively taking off on an extended trips abroad and then returning home weeks or months later with little recollection of what had occurred while they were away. Though today this would simply be referred to as “college Spring Break”, back then it was considered serious enough to warrant documentation in several scientific journals.

The diagnosis, however, is officially no longer recognized as a mental illness in France or elsewhere…as of right now, anyway. I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time we petitioned to bring it back?

Solitary figure on snow covered hill

Back in the 1850s, American slave owners sought to understand why their slaves’ seemed compelled to  run away from their owners homes on the plantations. Because people had to be crazy to want to flee captivity (wanting their freedom wasn’t a good enough of a reason, I guess) doctors attributed the slaves’ behavior to a mental disorder they called “Drapetomania”.

These days Drapetomania is considered an example of racist pseudoscience (and rightly so!) but wouldn’t it be nice if next time you’re packing your bags for a move to China or a backpacking trip to Chile and your friends ask you for the upteenth time “What is WRONG with you?!” you’d be able to explain their frustrations away with a simple “I can’t help it.  I have Drapetomania”?

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