Maladaptive daydreaming

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Maladaptive daydreaming, also known as excessive daydreaming, is a disordered form of dissociative absorption associated with vivid and excessive fantasy activity that often involves elaborate and fanciful scenarios. It can result in distress, can replace human interaction and may interfere with normal functioning such as social life or work.[1][2] People who suffer from maladaptive daydreaming can spend more than half their days in "vivid alternative universes".[3]

Maladaptive daydreaming is typically associated with stereotypical movements, such as pacing or rocking, and the need for musical stimulation.[4] One of the lead researchers of maladaptive daydreaming and the person who coined the term is University of Haifa professor Eli Somer.[5][6] Somer's definition of the condition is “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning.”[7]

Range of daydreaming activity[edit]

Many human experiences range between the normal to the abnormal. Daydreaming, a form of normal dissociation associated with absorption, is a highly prevalent mental activity experienced by almost everyone.[8] It is thought to encompass almost half of all human thought, with hundreds of daydreaming sequences experienced daily.[9][10]

Some individuals possess the ability to daydream so vividly that they experience a sense of presence in the imagined environment.[5] This experience is reported to be extremely rewarding to the extent that some of those who experience it develop a compulsion to repeat it that is often described as an addiction.[11][12][13][14] The scientific literature suggests that a portion of people with maladaptive daydreaming can spend up to 60% of their waking time daydreaming, and could, therefore, be classified as suffering from a behavioral addiction.[15]

Stimuli for maladaptive daydreams range in all kinds of places, and their “symptoms” are also numerous. The overall symptom is extremely vivid fantasies with “story-like features,” such as the daydream’s characters, plots and settings.[16] Characters can be real people the maladaptive daydreamer knows, or made up ones, and the same goes with settings and plots. Media sources, such as movies, video games and music, are probably major influences in a maladaptive daydreamer’s life, and this is why these fantasies are often shaped like a novel or film. Also, time spent in a maladaptive daydreaming may prompt the daydreamer to pace, fiddle with something in their hand, or rock back and forth. Maladaptive daydreamers usually get very mentally and emotionally involved in their fantasies, causing the daydreamers to react physically by gesturing, laughing, talking, and making faces that fit whatever fantasized scenario they are in.[17]

Maladaptive daydreaming is not a psychosis issue. The daydreams are not reality - maladaptive daydreamers always know this. Though maladaptive daydreaming and psychosis problems, like schizophrenia, both deal with people avoiding reality, psychosis is about people who are utterly detached from reality. This means that psychotic people cannot differentiate fantasy from reality, whereas people with maladaptive daydreaming always know the difference between what is in their mind and what is actually happening in the world.[18]

Online support[edit]

Though maladaptive daydreaming is not yet an officially recognized psychiatric problem, meaning that people cannot be officially diagnosed with it yet, it has spawned numerous online and real-world support groups since Somer first identified the phenomenon in 2002.[19]

There is a large and growing number of online international maladaptive daydreaming groups that provide information and peer-support, on which individuals profess to have been secretly suffering from maladaptive daydreaming for years.[20]

The grass-root effort by sufferers to increase awareness of their condition manifested itself in a global spontaneous effort to translate the 16-item maladaptive daydreaming scale, MDS-16.[21] The MDS-16 has been translated, so far, into 29 languages, by qualified individuals who struggle with this condition.[22]

Theorized Causes[edit]

The complex, imagined worlds and stories of a maladaptive daydream are a relief to times of distress or boredom.[23] Daydreaming for these reasons is not inherently unhealthy, it is only when the imagined features replace or overcome the real ones when it can be dubbed maladaptive. In some cases, people with suspected maladaptive daydreaming have reported some fairly distressing effects. They can sometimes be completely absorbed in their fantasies, making them lose track of time and have trouble focusing on other tasks such as reading books or watching videos. These fantasies can even mutate from a simple hobby to avoid boredom into an option that is preferable to interaction with real people.[24] In this case, these maladaptive daydreamers actually look forward to times when they can return to their imagined worlds, instead of only doing so whenever their schedules allow it.[25] On the physical side, maladaptive daydreamers can become so engrossed that their worlds hinder their ability to sleep, get out of bed, and even maintain proper hygiene.[26]

Research on maladaptive daydreaming[edit]

Research shows that this phenomenon is measurable, that it is stable and unique and can be differentiated very clearly from normal daydreaming.[27] Research with the MDS-16 has also demonstrated that individuals who suffer from this condition report higher rates of attention-deficit and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.[28]

Maladaptive daydreaming is currently studied by a consortium of researchers from diverse countries including the USA, Poland, Switzerland and Israel.[29][30][31]

Following the publication of two single case studies on treatment for maladaptive daydreaming, research is now needed to develop evidence-based practice for the treatment of maladaptive daydreaming.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tsoulis-Reay, Alexa (12 October 2016). "What It's Like When Your Daydreams Are Just As Real As Life". The Cut.
  2. ^ Young, Emma (25 June 2018). "People with "Maladaptive daydreaming" spend an average of four hours a day lost in their imagination". The British Psychological Society Research Digest.
  3. ^ Reddy, Sumathi (9 May 2016). "When Daydreaming Becomes a Problem". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  4. ^ Somer, Eli; Soffer-Dudek, Nirit; Ross, Colin A.; Halpern, Naomi (June 2017). "Maladaptive daydreaming: Proposed diagnostic criteria and their assessment with a structured clinical interview". Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. 4 (2): 176–189. doi:10.1037/cns0000114.
  5. ^ a b Somer, Eli (Fall 2002). "Maladaptive Daydreaming: A Qualitative Inquiry" (PDF).
  6. ^ Bigelsen, Jayne; Kelley, Tina (29 April 2015). "When Daydreaming Replaces Real Life". The Atlantic. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Singer, J. L. (1966) Daydreaming. New York, NY: Random House
  9. ^ Killingsworth, M., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). "A wandering mind is an unhappy mind". Science. 330 (6006): 932. doi:10.1126/science.1192439. PMID 21071660.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Klinger, E. (2009). Daydreaming and fantasizing: Thought flow and motivation. In K. D. Markman, W. M. P. Klein, & J. A. Suhr (Eds.), Handbook of imagination and mental simulation (pp. 225-239). New York, NY: Psychology Press
  11. ^ Somer, E. Somer, L. & Jopp, S.D (9 June 2016). "Parallel lives: A phenomenological study of the lived experience of maladaptive daydreaming". Journal of Trauma & Dissociation. 17 (5): 561–576. doi:10.1080/15299732.2016.1160463. PMID 26943233.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Bigelsen, J., & Schupak, C. (December 2011). "Compulsive fantasy: Proposed evidence of an under-reported syndrome through a systematic study of 90 self-identified non-normative fantasizers". Consciousness and Cognition. 20 (4): 1634–1648. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.013. PMID 21959201.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Glausiusz, Josie (1 January 2014). "Living in an Imaginary World". Scientific American. 23: 70–77. doi:10.1038/scientificamericancreativity1213-70.
  14. ^ Pietkiewicz, I.J., Nęcki, S., Bańbura, A, & Tomalski, R. (August 2018). "Maladaptive daydreaming as a new form of behavioral addiction". Journal of Behavioral Addictions.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Kelly, Jon Kelly (5 October 2017). "The daydream that never stops".
  16. ^ "Maladaptive Daydreaming: Scale, Symptoms, and Treatments". 2017-04-26.
  17. ^ "Maladaptive Daydreaming — What is It?". 2013-07-12.
  18. ^ "Maladaptive Daydreaming: Scale, Symptoms, and Treatments". 2017-04-26.
  19. ^ "Maladaptive daydreaming | the Psychologist".
  20. ^ Bershtling, O., & Somer, E. (27 August 2018). "The Micro-Politics of a New Mental Condition: Legitimization in Maladaptive Daydreamers' Discourse". The Qualitative Report.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Handrich, Rita (15 June 2016). "The Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS)". Keene Trial Consulting.
  22. ^ "The 16-item Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS-16)". The International Consortium for Maladaptive Daydreaming Research (ICMDR). Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  23. ^ "Maladaptive daydreaming | the Psychologist".
  24. ^ "Maladaptive daydreaming | the Psychologist".
  25. ^ "The Dreaming Place".
  26. ^ "The Dreaming Place".
  27. ^ Pequenino, Karla (30 December 2016). "Maladaptive daydreaming: When fantasies become a nightmare". CNN.
  28. ^ Reddy, Sumathi (16 May 2016). "When Daydreaming Becomes a Problem". Wall Street Journal.
  29. ^ "Maladaptive Daydreaming Publications". The International Consortium for Maladaptive Daydreaming Research (ICMDR).
  30. ^ Bigelsen, J., & Schupak, C. (December 2011). "Compulsive fantasy: Proposed evidence of an under-reported syndrome through a systematic study of 90 self-identified non-normative fantasizers". Consciousness and Cognition. 20 (4): 1634–1648. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.013. PMID 21959201.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ Jayne Bigelse, Jonathan M.Lehrfeld, Daniela S.Jopp, Eli Somer (May 2016). "Maladaptive daydreaming: Evidence for an under-researched mental health disorder". Consciousness and Cognition. 42: 254–266. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2016.03.017. PMID 27082138.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  32. ^ Cynthia Schupak, Jesse Rosenthal (March 2009). "Excessive daydreaming: A case history and discussion of mind wandering and high fantasy proneness". Consciousness and Cognition. 18: 290–292. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2008.10.002. PMID 19062309.