Maladaptive Daydreaming: Signs, Treatments, and Coping Strategies


Maladaptive daydreaming is an addiction defined by a compulsion to daydream and become involved in an imaginary world to the exclusion of real-world responsibilities, including social, intellectual, and professional ones. While it may provide temporary relief, engaging in maladaptive daydreaming as a coping mechanism can have detrimental effects on one’s mental health and lead to a cycle of increasing withdrawal and worsening symptoms.

Daydreaming has been the topic of a number of psychological investigations. Ninety-six percent of adults reportedly engage in daily daydreaming, with such fantasies accounting for over half of the average person’s mental processing time. Experts agree that daydreaming serves a useful purpose in human life.

When the brain isn’t being actively challenged, it wanders off into daydreams via a default network. By its very nature, daydreaming is a form of altered consciousness, characterized by limited awareness of one’s immediate environment. That’s why you shouldn’t daydream when behind the wheel.

How does maladaptive daydreaming show itself ?

A number of different studies conducted throughout the years have proposed their own set of symptoms for the maladaptive disease. Unfortunately, due to a lack of in-depth studies, psychologistsdo not consider these symptoms complete or reliable.
• Excessive fantasizing
• Unusually detailed daydreams
• Daydreaming sessions that last unusually long
• Daydreams triggered by real-life situations
• Difficulty focusing because of daydreaming
• Intense desires to continue staying in a daydream
• Daydreams that disrupt sleep patterns
• Snickering or repetitive motions during daydreaming

Who is affected?

• Those with mental health problems or impairments in certain areas of the brain are more likely to engage in maladaptive daydreaming. Maladaptive daydreaming is typically associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
• Anxiety disorders.
• Mood Disorders of a Particular Kind
• Cases of dissociative disorders.
• OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

An individual’s age may also play a role in maladaptive daydreaming. Some studies have found that children are particularly vulnerable, but it can affect anyone at any age. Nevertheless, additional study is needed to identify the prevalence of this condition across different age groups.

Finally, a lot of people who have problems with maladaptive daydreaming have experienced abuse or trauma in the past, often in childhood. It’s true that some persons with maladaptive daydreaming tend to do this but by no means is everyone.

When does daydreaming turn into a problem?

When fantasizing interferes with a person’s daily life to the point where they experience difficulty or impairment, or when they are unable to do routine activities, the fantasizing has crossed over into the unhealthy realm.

Some of the ways in which people’s lives can be negatively impacted by maladaptive daydreaming are listed below.

• Being irritated or angry when other people interrupt your daydreams.
• having trouble paying attention in social situations, at work, or while engaged in other things
• Daydreaming to the point of becoming ineffective at work or education
• Abandoning other recreational pursuits in favor of daydreaming
• developing a growing distaste for actual human interaction in favor of daydreaming and fantasizing
• Inability to suppress daydreaming in order to pay attention to other tasks
• The need for daydreaming as a means of maintaining emotional equilibrium.
• Daydreaming is facilitated by excessive media consumption (music, the web, movies, gaming, erotica, or fan fiction).

Maladaptive daydreaming: How Can Physicians Recognize It?

As maladaptive daydreaming is not recognized as a medical disorder, there is no diagnostic test for it.

Some of the best doctors can screen for maladaptive daydreaming using the same tests and questionnaires used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, depression, and dissociative disorders.

Also, there is a Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale-16 (MDS-16). You can find out how likely you are to exhibit the behavior by answering this set of questions.

Treatment and management

Disordered or dysfunctional dreaming has no established treatment protocol. Anecdotal research suggests, however, that certain strategies can be useful in alleviating the symptoms.
The following are examples of such methods:
• Reducing fatigue: This can be accomplished by improving the amount or quality of sleep a person receives.
• Knowing How to Recognize Symptoms: Sharing one’s symptoms with others may give them a chance to recognize and stop the maladaptive daydreaming.
• Recognizing and avoiding precipitating factors: It can be helpful to keep track of instances of maladaptive daydreaming in order to pinpoint the circumstances or stimuli that bring on this behavior.
• Therapy Attempting: That way, the causes and precipitating factors of dysfunctional daydreaming can be isolated and addressed. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other similar therapeutic methods may be useful in illuminating any hidden problems. A counselor could also recommend techniques for dealing with the issue at hand.
• The Use of Medications: It’s quite improbable that someone’s maladaptive daydreaming would be severe enough to warrant treatment. Nevertheless, fluvoxamine is a medication that has been shown to reduce the severity of these symptoms.


Those who suffer from this ailment frequently face a plethora of unfavorable emotions and side effects that disrupt their daily life. There are a variety of health issues that might develop as a result of an unsteady sleep-wake cycle. Individuals with this trait often feel compelled to engage in maladaptive daydreaming and may become irritated when they are denied this desire. Addiction is a good analogy for this pattern. Trying to quit or lessen it may be difficult, therefore getting treatment from the best psychologist as soon as possible is recommended.


1. What causes daydreaming?

It’s common to fantasize excessively as a means of escaping unpleasant realities. So, it’s more prevalent among those who struggle with mood disorders including despair and anxiety. You could start to lose control of your daydreaming if this strategy becomes your go-to for dealing with stressful situations.

2. What are some outcomes of daydreaming?

Daydreaming improves your ability to focus and concentrate, as well as your ability to think creatively and solve problems. Allowing yourself time to daydream allows your mind to roam to places and ideas it might not have explored otherwise.

3. Does daydreaming lead to forgetfulness?

It is easier to recollect a memory if you are still in the same physical location where it was formed. Daydreaming and other forms of mindless thinking have been shown in previous research to prevent people from recalling recent events.

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