Maladaptive Daydreaming

TL;DR: Maladaptive daydreaming is a psychological phenomenon characterized by intense, elaborate daydreams that are typically more vivid and immersive than the average person’s daydreams. These daydreams can interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life and may be a form of escapism or coping mechanism for those who experience significant stress or discomfort in their daily lives.

Associated Disorders

It has been linked to various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What Does the Research Tell Us?

There is limited research on the prevalence of maladaptive daydreaming, but it is estimated to affect approximately 1-5% of the population. Some studies have suggested that up to 20% of the population experience maladaptive daydreaming. Because of the prevalence of maladaptive daydreaming, some experts believe it should be a diagnosis of its own. However, getting a disorder in the DSM takes many years and a massive body of research.


Maladaptive daydreaming can involve complex, multi-sensory imagery and may include elaborate characters, storylines, and settings. To be considered a maladaptive daydream it must: be intense and complex, last a long time (sometimes hours), may be intentional, and disconnect the person from what is around them. People who experience maladaptive daydreaming may spend hours a day lost in their daydreams and may find it difficult to focus on tasks or activities in their everyday lives. There are multiple types of triggers for maladaptive daydreaming, including stress and trauma.

It can be difficult to control how often you do this type of daydreaming. Some research suggests that it is more common among young people such as children and adolescents. Many people who experience maladaptive daydreams have a history of abuse or trauma. Maladaptive dreaming can be rewarding to the affected person as it provides self-soothing, amongst other rewards.


What Can I do About it?

First and foremost: I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The following are skills I’ve used with time blindness and other skills from the internet (maybe a few nuggets sprinkled in from my own therapist). The best way to find how to cope with your own symptoms? Go to therapy.

Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale 16 this scale was developed by researchers. It is a self-report scale using a 10-point likert scale. A score of 40 or higher suggests suspected maladaptive daydreaming.

Use Mindfulness since maladaptive daydreaming is a type of escapism, coming back into yourself and being present can help to adjust back to reality.

If you think you may be experiencing maladaptive daydreaming, it is important to speak with a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


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