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Dromomania, also travelling fugue , is an uncontrollable psychological urge to wander.[1] People with this condition spontaneously depart from their routine, travel long distances and take up different identities and occupations. Months may pass before they return to their former identities. The term comes from the Greek: dromos (running) and mania (insanity).[1] In the common English vernacular this is often rendered simply as 'wanderlust' (directly from the German), although dromomania does imply a psychological compulsion, usually on one's own and often without one's conscious knowledge, rather than a more generalised desire to travel.

The most famous case was that of Jean-Albert Dadas, a Bordeaux gas-fitter. Dadas would suddenly set out on foot and reach cities as far away as Prague, Vienna or Moscow with no memory of his travels. A medical student, Philippe Tissie, wrote about Dadas in his doctoral dissertation in 1887.[2]

Jean-Martin Charcot presented a similar case he called automatisme ambulatoire, French for "ambulatory automatism", or "walking around without being in control of one's own actions."

Only a handful of cases of such behaviour have been documented, nearly all in France in the late nineteenth century. On the other hand, dromomania in wider sense (e.g. spontaneous change of location undertaken due to dysphoria) can be characteristic of other mental disorders, e.g. borderline personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder.

In fact, in the early 20th century, the American Psychiatric Association had a definition of psychopathic personalities which included among other things a tendency towards dromomania.[3]

More generally, the term is sometimes used to describe people who have a strong emotional or even physical need to be constantly traveling and experiencing new places, often at the expense of their normal family, work, and social lives.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Medical dictionary, dromomania
  2. ^ Les aliénés voyageurs : essai médico-psychologique, Paris, O. Doin, 1887 ; réédité à L'Harmattan, 2005, introduction de Serge Nicolas, sous le titre Les aliénés voyageurs : Le cas Albert, Available at http://www2.biusante.parisdescartes.fr/livanc/?cote=TBOR1887x29&do=chapitre
  3. ^ Current Conceptions of Psychopathic Personality G. E. Partridge, The American Journal of Psychiatry. 1930 July ; 1(87):53-99


  • Mad Travellers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses by Ian Hacking (ISBN 1-85343-455-8)