All About Maladaptive Daydreaming

All About Maladaptive Daydreaming

Maladaptive Daydreaming, or “daydreaming”, is a common problem in our society. It is defined as a mental process in which we fantasize about the future, imagine ourselves in a different situation, or reflect on the past. This mental process, which is also known as maladaptive daydreaming, is an essential part of the human experience. But it can also be a problem. It can affect your life and your productivity. In this post we will discuss all about maladaptive daydreaming is, how it affects our lives and what you can do to overcome it.

What Is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

A mental health issue where a person daydreams for hours at a time is maladaptive daydreaming. This type of daydreaming is called maladaptive because it is an attempt to cope with or adapt to a problem. People who do this tend to lose themselves in detailed and vivid daydreams. There is research that shows this kind of daydreaming could be addictive. If not impossible, it is difficult to control that you are doing it.

There are a number of mental health and neurological conditions that overlap with this issue. However, there is evidence that it is different than other conditions and should be declared a separate disorder.

Symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming

  • There are vivid daydreams that present as a story with characters, settings, and plotlines.


  • There are daydreams that are triggered by real-world events or sensory stimuli.


  • There are unconscious facial expressions, repetitive body movements, or talking or whispering that accompany daydreams.


  • It lasts for several hours.


  • There is a strong desire to keep daydreaming.


  • Due to daydreams, there is trouble focusing and completing daily tasks.


  • Trouble sleeping

There are at least one or more of these symptoms that a person can exhibit.

It’s possible that you have a diagnosis of another disorder, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is different from regular daydreaming in many ways, including the distress it causes and its impact on daily life. 

It involves structured, intentionally generated fantasy narratives, which are different from general mind wandering, according to experts writing in 2019. Mind wandering tends to happen spontaneously, and relate to everyday life.

Causes of Maladaptive Daydreaming

There isn’t any evidence that it can lead to another condition, but it can affect your quality of life.

It can affect your:

  • ability to focus
  • Difficulty in being productive in work.


  • Lack of attention to real-life relationships
  • anxiety about managing the daydreams causes disturbance in mental well-being

Other conditions that people have reported alongside include:

  • anxiety disorders
  • borderline personality disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • OCD
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • ADHD
  • dissociative disorder
  • psychosis

However, it is not clear how these disorders are related to maladaptive daydreaming.

According to one study, 25 percent of people with maladaptive daydreaming had tried to kill themselves, but the link between suicide and this condition is unclear.

Who Has the Higher Risk?

It is not considered a condition by experts. There are certain mental health conditions that can be related to this behavior. These might include:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Some forms of depression

According to some research, It is not the same as other disorders and should be defined as a condition of its own.

There is a correlation between age and maladaptive daydreaming. The studies have found that it is more common among younger people. It can happen to children, but it’s especially true for young adults and teenagers.

There is more data that needs to be collected to understand the link between this behavior and age. A lot of people who have maladaptive daydreaming have experienced abuse or trauma. Not everyone with the behavior has gone through it.


Difference Between Daydreaming and Maladaptive Daydreaming

According to some researchers, daydreaming is normal because the mind wanders for nearly half of our waking hours.

There are a number of differences between normal and maladaptive daydreaming.

Some of the differences are found in the content and vividness of daydreams, while others are found in the lives, relationships, and functioning of the person having them.

There are a number of differences between healthy daydreaming and maladaptive daydreaming. Let’s see them one by one.

Normal Daydreaming   

  • Gives a mental ‘break’ 
  • It is possible to restore attention at will.

  • Is not as significant as real life.

  • Is connected to boredom and distraction.

  • Does not cause a problem.

  • There aren’t long Daydreams.

  • Is used to aid creativity and goal setting.

Maladaptive Daydreaming

  • It gives an emotional escape.

  • It’s difficult to control, stop or redirecting.

  • Is equal to or more important than real life.

  • The leads lead to enjoyment and pleasure.

  • Contributes to impairments/distress.

  • It can take hours for daydreaming to end.

  • Decreases creativity, goals, and productivity.

Diagnosis of Maladaptive Daydreaming

It is not possible to diagnose maladaptive daydreaming at the moment.

The 14-point Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale was developed by experts to help people determine whether or not they are experiencing symptoms of it. However, the scale should only be used as an indication. The purpose is not to provide a formal diagnosis.

There is insufficient evidence to show that it can be classified as a mental health condition. Dissociative identity disorder can cause people to become engrossed in a fantasy or disillusion, which can lead to states of separation from reality. With that said people who experience it know that their daydreams aren’t reality.

Treatment of Maladaptive Daydreaming

There are no standard treatments for maladaptive dreaming. But, there are techniques derived from anecdotal evidence that can be used to manage the symptoms.

These techniques include the following:

  • Reducing fatigue: A person is able to increase the amount of sleep they get by doing this. Stimulants such as caffeine can be used to combat fatigue during the daytime. 
  • Being aware of symptoms: Keeping others informed about one’s symptoms can give them an opportunity to notice and interrupt maladaptive daydreaming. 
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers: A diary can help a person identify activities and stimuli that cause maladaptive daydreaming. 
  • Trying therapy: Identifying the underlying causes of maladaptive daydreaming can be done by trying therapy. Any underlying issues may be exposed by the use of cognitive behavioral therapy. A therapist might suggest strategies for dealing with stress.  
  • Taking medications: It is not likely that someone with maladaptive daydreaming would need to take medication. However, fluvoxamine is a drug that can be used to ease the symptoms. 

Fluvoxamine was helpful in managing maladaptive daydreaming in a case study. There isn’t much research that supports the use of drug treatments.


It is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it has been around for centuries. In our modern society, we are constantly bombarded with distractions, which makes it easy to get lost in thought. However, when you daydream, you are essentially disconnected from reality. You’re not paying attention to the things going on around you. You are not in control of your actions and you are not able to accomplish anything. This can have a detrimental effect on your productivity. But, the good news is that there are ways to stop it. Read this blog to learn how to get out of the habit of maladaptive daydreaming.


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