How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

Read Next

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

Wild Lettuce: A Natural Pain Reliever and Supplement for Alzheimers!
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • WhatsApp

Daydreaming is a common and widespread human phenomenon. Sometimes, however, daydreaming can evolve into extreme and maladaptive behavior. Coined by Israeli professor of Clinical Psychology, Eli (Eliezer Somer), the term maladaptive daydreaming refers to a psychiatric condition which involves engaging in uncontrolled and extensive periods of highly immersive and vividly fantastical daydreaming.

According to the British Psychological Society(1), people with maladaptive daydreaming were found to spend an average of about four hours per day lost in their own thoughts.

So, how to stop daydreaming? Let’s find out more about the symptoms and causes of maladaptive daydreaming and ways to effectively cope with it.

Common Symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming

The following are some common symptoms that characterize individuals who are maladaptive daydreamers:

  • They spend hours absorbed in their own imaginative experiences and fantastical thoughts;
  • They are more likely to be socially withdrawn and neglect relationships with family and friends;
  • They may have trouble focusing and coping with daily life;
  • They tend to neglect their health and may experience sleep disturbances;
  • They generally lead an unproductive lifestyle.

The maladaptive daydreaming disorder is currently treated as a neural biochemical imbalance. The causes of this disorder, however, have been increasingly linked to loneliness, trauma, and abuse, especially during childhood. Individuals use it as a coping mechanism to escape from the so-called ‘unpleasant reality’.

They may also resort to excessive daydreaming as a means to vent out anger, rage, or pain, reimagine painful real-life interactions, or gain temporary relief from anxiety and stress.

Did You Know!

People who suffer from maladaptive daydreaming may spend about 60 percent of their waking life in their own reveries.

What Can You Do to Control Maladaptive Daydreaming?

If you find yourself in a mental state of wandering constantly, here are a few things you can do to take control:

1. Recognize the Symptoms

Acknowledging your symptoms is the first step towards helping yourself deal with the maladaptive daydreaming disorder. It can also benefit you if you can try and identify the underlying cause for your excessive daydreaming, which may help you overcome the problem. For example, you may be feeling unfulfilled, and you probably resort to compulsive daydreaming as a means of comfort.

By recognizing this, you can rediscover ways to find fulfillment, such as finding a job you love or pursuing a degree that can provide you with more opportunities. If you are unable to recognize the specific cause for your disorder, it is still crucial that you remain aware of your symptoms and reach out for support.

2. Identify and Avoid Triggers

Try to recognize triggers that drive your mind to wander. Music, boredom, and sadness are some common triggers that are known to spur episodes of daydreaming. If you can recognize what prompts your daydreaming, it will be easier for you to break out of the cycle.

3. Keep Your Mind Active and Engaged

You will probably come across this advice a lot, but this is one of the surest ways to treat maladaptive daydreaming. Try to keep your mind preoccupied during the day. Reading or solving crosswords and puzzles is one way to engage your brain actively. You could also find a hobby or join a club, take up dancing, play a sport, or simply exercise your body. This will help you override the internal commotion in your head.

4. Get Enough Sleep

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

A new study(2) predicts that sleep disturbances tend to increase the frequency of mind-wandering episodes. A possible explanation for this, according to Professor Eli Somer, is that poor sleep reduces executive cognitive control and lowers functional connectivity, thereby reducing a person’s ability to prevent his or her mind from wandering.

It is important, therefore, that you get good quality sleep on a regular schedule. Minimize caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other such substances that can interfere with your sleep.

5. Keep a Journal

Another useful exercise is to record your thoughts in a journal. If you can record how frequently you daydream, what exactly you were thinking about, and discern people, places, and things that trigger these episodes daily, it can help you uncover possible trends that drive your behavior. You can use the journal to take steps to alter your behavior.

Here’s What You Need to Know About the Ketogenic Diet and Coconut Oil

6. Consult a Therapist or Find a Support Group

If you think that these simple positive changes aren’t helping you enough, consult a therapist who can help you develop more effective coping skills. Sometimes, just the small act of verbalizing your feelings to someone can help you cope with your emotions better and motivate you to make changes in your behavior.

Online support groups are also a great tool. It can help you connect with people who share similar feelings and experiences.

Final Thoughts:

Daydreaming isn’t always bad! There are various benefits to daydreaming, too. Some people think that the ability to imagine makes you more creative, improves your working memory, and can even lower your stress levels. But, it is essential not to make it a habit.

If you are troubled by obsessive daydreaming, try to replace unproductive thoughts with a more realistic visualization of things, like what goals you would like to achieve or how you can solve a particular problem. Channel your imagination into improving your own life.

1. Is Daydreaming a Symptom of ADHD?

Daydreaming doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADHD. However, daydreaming tends to be more intensified in children with ADHD as their ability to self-regulate the brain is impaired.

2. What Are the Early Signs of ADHD?

Some common signs exhibited by children with ADHD include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Daydreaming is another classic symptom. Children with ADHD may be hyper-focused while they are daydreaming so much so that it can be challenging to get their attention back, affecting their day-to-day functioning.

3. Is Maladaptive Daydreaming a Symptom of Anxiety?

Maladaptive daydreaming is often seen in individuals with anxiety disorders. It helps them manage their fear and anxiety. It is also associated with various other symptoms such as trauma, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit disorder.

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

If you’ve come to this page then I know how you feel, you’re fed up of maladaptive daydreaming. Yes you love it too, I know. Your characters, your world, the feelings and emotions you feel when your daydreaming make you feel brilliant and happy and safe. Then reality seeps in and you realise you’ve wasted your whole day on something that is not real, you haven’t done the household chores, work or whatever it is that you needed to do as you’ve been too wrapped up in your own head. And you know that as great as that can be, it has to end as life can’t go on like this.

How the hell do we break the Maladaptive Daydreaming addiction? – Anna

How do we cure MD?

I’ve read online that some people think maladaptive daydreaming can’t be cured or treated but there are quite a lot of EX maladaptive daydreamers out there who have said they have broken free from this. Yup they did it, they no longer constantly fantasize. So if they can do it, then we can do it. Yes we can.

How to deal with maladaptive daydreamingMaladaptive Daydreaming Treatments

1. The majority of Ex maladaptive daydreamers that now say they’ve rid themselves of this addiction have really worked on themselves. They’ve all said it was a really hard journey and hard work. They saw a therapist and worked through their issues. OK, if Maladaptive daydreaming is a coping mechanism to deal with anxiety/depression/trauma/stress then you can see how talking through all your issues with somebody who is trained to listen and not judge you will be supremely beneficial.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, therapy is expensive and really is a random therapist going to understand anything about maladaptive daydreaming? Once you tell somebody are the little white men in white coats going to drive you away somewhere and plonk you in the nearest asylum?

Well, if you’re from the UK there is a service called Back on Track, which offers a free counselling service. You do not need a referral from your doctor, you just fill in the contact form or phone the number and someone will call you back. I have contacted them and have been told there’s a month’s waiting list to actually meet a therapist but as soon as I do, I will document what happens here. Because ultimately I really believe that this will work. Can you look online and find a free counseling service near you? Could you go to your doctor and explain you need help and get a referral? If money isn’t an issue for you, could you look into therapists near you? I think it would be definitely worth a try.

2. Change the Endings of your Daydreams

I have a love fantasy daydream. Obviously we always get together and live happily ever after. One MaladaptiveHow to deal with maladaptive daydreaming Daydreamer has suggested changing the ending so you just remain friends. She said she does this now and it makes daydreaming a whole lot less enjoyable and her daydreams are over very quickly as a lot of the enjoyment has been taken away.

Could you do the same? I mean whatever the theme of your daydream can you change the ending to something less pleasurable? I tried this and changed the ending in my daydream even more dramatically so that we never got together in the first place and yes it completely killed the enjoyment of the whole thing.

However, personally I feel anxious when not daydreaming as I know I have to work through a lot of issues and until I have someone who can help me work through these issues, I’m going to have to keep hold of the daydreaming. But I can see though if you changed the ending and stuck with it, you would pretty much kill off the maladaptive daydreaming.


When Eli Somer lead a study into Maladaptive daydreaming, he mentioned in his report that one maladaptive daydreamer that he came across was treated for over 10 years with a drug called fluvoxamine, that reportedly helped to control her daydreaming. I’ll quote him, as he seems to know what he’s talking about:

“The fact that this patient responded to a medication that influences serotonergic tone, implies neurochemical irregularity and suggests a potential association between MD and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders”.

So what is Fluvoxamine?

Fluvoxamine, sold under the brand name Luvox among others, is an antidepressant of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class which is used primarily for the treatment of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) and is also used to treat depression and anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

M edication, is a consideration I think if things get really bad. When I went to see my doctor to tell him about my anxiety and compulsive daydreaming he prescribed Sertraline which, is also an antidepressant also known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). I did refuse to take this as I want to talk to a therapist first. But at least the option is there if needed.

Ultimately although I’m not a medical professional, I think the only way to treat and beat the MD is to work through all the issues that started this in the first place. And you’ll need help to do this. I can’t see how one person can combat this alone. So please talk to your doctor or find a therapist, if you’re brave enough to tell somebody about your MD then hats off to you. Having somebody to confide in and talk to about this would be so helpful.

If you have beaten MD and would like to share your story please contact me so I can include it on the site. Likewise, if you’re trying to beat this addiction and want to ask or add something please leave a comment below or fill in the contact form.

Being stuck in a perpetual daydream

  • twitter
  • linkedin

Elizabeth Yuko, PhD, is a bioethicist and journalist, as well as an adjunct professor of ethics at Dublin City University. She has written for publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, and more.

Adjoa Smalls-Mantey, MD, DPhil, is a board-certified psychiatrist and lifestyle medicine physician. She practices emergency psychiatry in New York City at several institutions, including Columbia University Medical Center, where she is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry.

While it’s natural to drift off or space out every now and then, for some people it happens so often that it can negatively affect their life. This is called maladaptive daydreaming, and although it’s commonly referred to as a daydreaming disorder, it’s not an officially recognized psychiatric disorder. There is, however, a maladaptive daydreaming test that uses a specific scale to measure the extent of a person’s excessive mind wandering.

This article will discuss the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis options for maladaptive daydreaming.

” data-caption=”” data-expand=”300″ data-tracking-container=”true” />

d3sign / Getty Images


Maladaptive daydreaming is more than the natural, occasional mind wandering. It involves excessive, vivid fantasies that can get in the way of a person’s ability to function in daily life, and it ultimately causes distress.

At times, these fantasies can become so complex and engrossing for a person that they could spend hours in them, to the point of replacing human contact. In these daydreams, people create fictional characters or idealized versions of themselves.

Though maladaptive daydreaming is not currently recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as an official psychiatric disorder, research suggests that dissociative and obsessive-compulsive factors are at play, indicating a more serious clinical diagnosis.

Other researchers see the time-consuming fantasizing as a form of behavioral addiction.


Some of the common traits and symptoms associated with maladaptive daydreaming include:

  • Extensive, sometimes compulsive, absorption in fantasy for several hours a day
  • Inability to stop daydreaming
  • Having very detailed fantasies, including plot lines and characters
  • Having real-life reactions to fantasies, like facial expressions, body movements, or verbalizations
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on other things
  • Sleep problems (especially falling asleep)
  • Replacing human interaction
  • The urge to continue fantasizing when interrupted

In some cases, maladaptive daydreaming can also be characterized by the need for additional stimulation, which can be expressed through extensive book-reading, watching films, or gaming.


Research hasn’t yet shown exactly what causes maladaptive daydreaming, but it is thought to be a coping mechanism to address previous trauma or social anxiety.

Children (or individuals of any age) may develop maladaptive daydreaming as a means to escape an abusive or traumatic environment.

Other Possible Causes of Maladaptive Daydreaming

In addition to processing trauma, other causes of maladaptive daydreaming include:

  • Wish fulfillment
  • Entertainment (regulating boredom or isolation)
  • Regulating distress


Because maladaptive daydreaming isn’t itself a psychiatric disorder, a diagnosis will not come from a healthcare provider or mental health expert. Instead, a 14-item self-reporting test can be used to assess whether a person is suffering from maladaptive daydreaming.

In the 14-part maladaptive daydreaming scale, a person answers questions about the frequency and severity of a range of symptoms associated with the condition. Examples of questions on the test include:

  • What takes place in your daydreams? How vivid and detailed are they?
  • Can you stop yourself from daydreaming? Do you want to?
  • Do your daydreams interfere with your daily life?

The ability to control daydreams, and to perceive the benefits and distress caused by the daydreams, is assessed to help self-diagnose maladaptive daydreaming.


Because so much is still unknown or not fully understood about maladaptive daydreaming—and because it’s not officially recognized as a disorder—there are no standard treatments for the condition.

In one case study, researchers found that fluvoxamine, a medication used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), helped alleviate symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming.


Though there is no official treatment for maladaptive daydreaming, there are some methods for coping with it. These include:

  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation
  • Keeping a journal, noting the circumstances that cause instances of maladaptive daydreaming, along with associated thoughts and feelings
  • Using coping statements that are convincing and helpful
  • Issuing self-praise when successful in stopping an instance of maladaptive daydreaming

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if you’re a maladaptive daydreamer?

Although a healthcare provider can’t officially diagnose you with maladaptive daydreaming disorder, you can take a self-assessment test using a 14-item maladaptive daydreaming scale. This will help you and your healthcare provider determine the severity of your symptoms and identify possible treatment and coping options.

What does maladaptive daydreaming have to do with OCD?

While some research has found that maladaptive daydreaming occurred alongside symptoms of OCD, the relationship between the two is not currently fully understood. One of the main areas that remains unknown is whether maladaptive daydreaming is its own psychiatric disorder or a symptom of another disorder, like dissociation, OCD, or something else entirely.

One study found that while maladaptive daydreaming may resemble a type of obsession or mental compulsion, OCD obsessions are typically related to feelings of anxiety, whereas for some, maladaptive daydreaming tends to be more voluntary and enjoyable.

What improves maladaptive daydreaming?

Although there is no cure for maladaptive daydreaming, some of the treatments and coping mechanisms discussed in this article may be helpful for some people, especially in terms of improving focus. These include:

  • Getting more and/or higher quality sleep
  • Working with a mental health counselor
  • Journaling
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation
  • Engaging in self-praise when maladaptive daydreaming is avoided
  • Using coping statements
  • Identifying specific triggers or stressors

A Word From Verywell

Everyone experiences occasional periods of stress, isolation, and boredom, so if you’ve found yourself lost in highly engrossing, lengthy daydreams as a way to escape, you’re not alone. But if it comes to a point where those fantasies are disrupting your daily life, you should contact your healthcare provider or a mental health expert. Doing so can help you develop and implement strategies to avoid maladaptive daydreaming, including processing any trauma that might be triggering these episodes.

The year is 1990. How could I ever forget that year? I was on tour with the hottest band in the world….

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

A panel of daydreamers including a ‘normative daydreamer,’ two people who have experienced MDD

Two people who consider themselves ‘immersive daydreamers’ explain the daydreaming spectrum

Maladaptive daydreaming disorder (MDD), also known as excessive daydreaming, involves vivid and excessive fantasy activity with elaborate and complex scenarios. Sometimes the daydreamer borrows characters from favorite books, video games, television shows and movies and makes up their own plots. Others make up their own cast of fantasy characters. People with MDD know that their daydream worlds are not real and never confuse real life with their fantasy worlds. Those with MDD usually enjoy and even love their daydream worlds. However, the daydreaming can result in distress, as it can sometimes replace human interaction and may interfere with normal functioning such as social life or work. People with MDD have trouble limiting their daydreaming and often complain that they find it compulsive or addictive. Maladaptive Daydreamers can spend more than half their days in “vivid alternative universes.”

Maladaptive daydreaming is typically associated with stereotypical movements, such as pacing or rocking, and the need for musical stimulation. Researchers on the topic include Jayne Bigelsen, Dr. Cynthia Schupak, Dr. Daniella Jopp and Dr. Eli Somer who coined the term Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder. Somer’s definition of the condition is “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning.” It is important to note that not everyone who daydreams in this elaborate, vivid manner has MDD. Enhanced, vivid daydreaming only becomes a problem if the person experiencing it believes that it is interfering with his or her life, usually due to the inability to limit it and the time it takes away from pursuing real life activities.

Extensive Daydreaming (often complex characters and plots)
Trouble limiting daydreaming so that it interferes with school, work, sleep or personal life
Can be annoyed when daydreaming is interrupted
Can be accompanied by pacing or other movement
Music can be a trigger

Please keep in mind that one can daydream in this enhanced fashion and have it not be a problem. It is only a problem if it interferes with your life, (e.g. causes problems with your academic/vocational goals and with your personal/family relationships.)

Dr Somer discusses Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder

Tips for Dealing with Maladaptive Daydreaming:

  • As Maladaptive Daydreaming is just starting to be studied, most doctors/mental health professionals will not have heard of it. It could help to print out some articles on it, including the empirical articles below, and bring them to your doctor. If they aren’t interested in it, then find another doctor/mental health professional.
  • Try finding some hobbies that you love. It is hard to daydream while engaging in your favorite activity. Acting, writing and art could be useful channels for your creativity.
  • Try to limit the time you engage in it. Perhaps use daydreaming time as a reward for yourself after you have finished some things you need to do in your real life. (For example, if I study for 45 minutes, I will give myself 15 minutes of daydreaming time.)
  • Therapy can be helpful for anyone. Try to find a good therapist. Again, they probably won’t have heard of MDD. But see tip #1. If they aren’t interesting in learning more, then find another therapist.
  • Please join the MDD group and share what works for you.

Research and Empirical Articles

Maladaptive daydreaming

  • This topic has 24 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated 3 months, 1 week ago by Javairia .

I’ve been maladaptive daydreaming for a few years now, or maybe had been doing it since childhood; but the patterns have gotten worse. I :

  • daydream for minutes to hours and hours
  • get really emotionally attached to story lines and scenarios in the daydream
  • make and act out the facial expressions and certain actions
  • whisper words, or sometimes say them out loud when I’m alone
  • even cry or laugh, based on the storyline (when I get emotionally invested into them)
  • consume media, stimuli that trigger or favor my daydreams’ storylines and such
  • abandon important tasks, or occasionally real-life conversations, at hand because of daydreaming

At first, I only used daydreaming to prepare for difficult conversations or events before hand. Like, a few days before a class presentation. That was a way to deal with stressful situations and calm myself down by “preparing” earlier. Then around after 9th grade, I turned to be getting severely emotionally attached to my daydreams. And after that I never was able to let go of the attachment to such a world. Instead of helping me cope with stress and negative emotions, it’s making me unable to complete my tasks at hand. I’m unable to verbalize my thoughts lately; daydreaming used to prepare me to process and verbalize my thoughts properly, but it’s doing the exact opposite now. I’m so much in my head that I really can’t tell what has been happening around me all these months and weeks. My head can’t process what’s on the outside, and it’s getting overwhelming everyday to try to explain my brain what’s happening on the ‘outside’ and how to act on it.

I don’t have a lot of healthy coping mechanisms, and I’m lost and confused of what to do with this healthy coping mechanism turned to an unhealthy and addictive behavior now.

And I’m scared to somehow lose my creativity, ability to cope with stress, or maybe a part of me if I let go of maladaptive daydreaming, but it’s not a healthy coping mechanism anymore either.

Wikipedia on maladaptive daydreaming reads that the term is not a recognized psychiatric or medical diagnosis. The term was coined in 2002 by Professor Eli Somer of University of Haifa who defined the term as an: “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/ or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning”.

Everyone daydreams sometimes, but some individuals daydream so vividly of stories with characters, plots and settings, that they feel that they are actually there, in the imagined setting, in the story, being one of the characters, feeling so good being there in the story, that they feel compelled to daydream more and more, and so, it becomes addictive.

* Before the term was coined, I daydreamed that way, every day it seems, while I was in high school, if not earlier. I enjoyed it very much, starting a story in the morning and having it continue into the evening. It was my way to feel good (and it did!) while real-life felt badly, lonely and boring.

There are online forums for maladaptive daydreamers. One is Daydream in blue free forums. net, and another is wild minds ning. com. The latter has this on the Home Page:

“Daydreamers welcome: Maladaptive daydreaming is an extensive fantasy activity that interferes with an individual’s life. Maladaptive daydreamers feel an urgency to daydream, which is similar to an addiction. Their fantasies are complex stories, with characters and plots, and they are very emotionally intense. On this website, maladaptive daydreamers can speak openly about this problem, sharing stories, resources, solutions, ideas, or just feel part of a community”.

I hope one or both of these online websites can be of help to you.

I haven’t heard of exactly the phrase maladaptive daydreaming, but it seems like a way to escape a difficult reality. Children who’ve experienced trauma and don’t feel physically safe in their environment (e.g. growing up in a war zone, or in a violent household, or physically abandoned or neglected by their caretakers for this or that reason), tend to disassociate from their body, to less feel the pain of living in a hostile environment. They tend to stay in their head, in their own imagined world, and daydream. As you said, it’s a coping mechanism, but it’s standing more and more in the way of normal functioning.

I didn’t have the time to read your other thread, but I’ve seen you mentioned the problem of self-harming. That’s usually a way to return to the body, after we’ve disassociated too much. It’s like one disassociates a lot via daydreaming, and then cut themselves to return to the body, to the physical reality. Both behaviors are related to childhood trauma of living in a precarious, unsafe environment.

Do you relate to that? Also, is there a school counselor or someone you can talk to? It would be important that you create an experience of safety for yourself, e.g. by participating in a school group (a drama group maybe?) or participating in a community project. Walking in the grass, spending time in nature, hugging trees etc are all ways to “ground” yourself, to feel that connection with mother earth that feels too scary at the moment.

Thank you so much for the reply. And for also putting in the effort to search it all up, if you did it exclusively for this. I’m grateful

Oh, I read on a past thread of a relevant topic for me, that you had to deal with OCD. I’ve read that maladaptive daydreaming can also be one of the symptoms of OCD. Maybe those two are connected; anyhow I’m proud to know that you’ve made it manageable for yourself by now.

I’ve checked out the two forums you wrote of. Will try posting or interacting there if I’ll have something to talk about on MD. Thank you for suggesting

Thank you very much for the reply. I do relate to the description you put out. Maybe it’s also a way to deal with unpleasant/traumatic memories as you said. I didn’t feel the large part of grief of childhood trauma until I was 15 or 16, perhaps I was numbing the stressing part of it through this stress coping mechanism; by dissociating.

I do have a school counsellor, and she recommended me to hang in there before being able to move out. She said that I can focus on studying and other personal goals, later I’m moving out for university anyway.

Thanks a lot for the nice suggestions, thinking of going out in fresh air more around trees.

You are welcome. There is a connection between maladaptive daydreaming and OCD, but then, there are connections between anxiety and a lot of other mental disorders and symptoms: anxiety in childhood, when it is overwhelming and prolonged, causes lots of problems.

Good to read back from you and post again anytime!

glad you liked the idea of spending more time in nature. When you’re out in nature, try to be present in your body, touch the grass, smell the flowers, touch the bark of a tree, notice the birds, hear them chirping… in short, try to engage all your senses. That will help you stay in the here and now, and not escape into your thoughts.

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

CBT stands for Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a talking therapy mostly used to help people dealing with depression and anxiety. It supposedly helps manage your issues by changing the way you think and behave. CBT helps us to replace thoughts and behaviours that aren’t working for us (I don’t know about you but the maladaptive daydreaming really isn’t working for me anymore) with new ones that work better for us.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of talking treatment which focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour, and teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to help with our massive problems by breaking them down into manageable pieces in a positive way. CBT is based on the notion that your feelings and actions are interconnected and that our negative emotions and thoughts can trap us in a vicious cycle. Whilst CBT is a talking therapy it is different from seeing a psychotherapist or counselor as CBT deals with your current issues, as opposed to dealing with issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind and you are shown how to change negative patterns into positive ones.

How does CBT work in regards to Maladaptive daydreaming?

I had a session with a psychotherapist who advised me to see a CBT therapist as I was feeling particularly anxious on the day when I saw this therapist. I was demanding solutions to solve the MD because I was beginning to have enough of constantly daydreaming at work the whole time and therefore not be able to do my job properly.

How to deal with maladaptive daydreamingThe therapist said to me if that was the case to look for a CBT therapist as they will deal with the MD in the sense of making the daydreaming feel unpleasant so it would be actually possible to stop the maladaptive daydreaming. However, he told me that CBT won’t help or solve the issues that are causing the MD. CBT won’t help with dealing with past trauma, it instead is all about dealing with present situations.

CBT helps to change the way we feel about situations and change our behaviour. Therefore it makes sense that CBT could change our maladaptive daydreaming behaviour. I just wonder though once it has done that, then what will we fill the void with? However, if like me you’re having sleeping problems, then CBT could help to identify the thoughts that make it difficult to sleep and address them. Also with anxiety, it could address what is currently making you anxious and help to make you see that facing these problems will give you faith in your own ability to cope.

CBT Books

Why that CBT book?

  • It’s one of the cheaper ones on Amazon.
  • It has a timeframe (7 weeks) to adhere to, which is what I like.
  • The reviews are very good.
  • There’s a workbook the promises to be easy to digest.

Have you tried CBT?

Have you tried CBT? Did it work? Please contact me or leave a comment below. We’d all love to know!

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

Fourteen years ago realising that you are in love with a figment of your imagination would have resulted in a course of antipsychotic drugs typical of those used to treat schizophrenic hallucinations. Even though maladaptive daydreamers know that the world they have created inside their minds is not real, when the issue is brought up in a counsellor’s office it is often either treated as if it is psychosis, or underestimated and simply labelled as an overactive imagination. Very little has changed in the clinical environment when one opens up about their emotional attachment to the fantasy world that they have created.

Outside the doctor’s office however, the situation is very different; it has been 14 years since Eli Somer’s first study of dissociating behaviour in the form of an addiction to daydreaming, and the discovery of this phenomenon has inspired blogs, support groups, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and ‘Wild Minds Network’ – a support website dedicated to maladaptive daydreaming. But even so, without knowing the phrase ‘maladaptive daydreaming’ it is virtually impossible to find any of these places, as the symptoms will prominently point towards psychosis or ADHD.The first scrap of an answer a maladaptive daydreamer gets is from accidently stumbling on a post on their newsfeed related to the concept, not from a clinical diagnosis.

Maladaptive daydreaming usually occurs as a coping mechanism in response to trauma, abuse or loneliness. Sufferers create a complex inner world which they escape to in times of distress by daydreaming for hours. It is a vicious cycle of addiction; maladaptive daydreaming inevitably creates an emotional attachment to the characters and the life created, which often replaces the painful real-life interactions between family and friends. It also interferes with studying, working and looking after one’s hygiene and wellbeing, which then further hinders daily functioning. At this point, daydreaming about a fulfilling life is a more appealing than dealing with the depressing reality. The defining difference between maladaptive daydreaming and psychosis is the fact that the individual knows that their daydreams are not real.

With no medical recognition, the disorder is treated as a neural biochemical imbalance instead of an addictive symptom stemming from a void in the individual’s life. The underlying problem is not addressed. Maladaptive daydreamers are not taken seriously: stuck waiting for suitable treatment, for acknowledgement that their minds are not simply ‘creative’ – but instead that this ‘creativity’ has a hand wrapped tightly around their throats – and finally, for answers.

The question still remains: ‘Why me?’ The exact mechanism by which maladaptive daydreaming comes to inhibit the ability of one’s emotions to stay anchored to reality remains to be discussed. Less nebulously though, is the fact that this discussion cannot be extended without further research and new minds linking ideas together into an amalgam that will eventually answer this question. Answers are required not only for treatment, but also to bring peace of mind to those who believe maladaptive daydreaming is a life sentence of isolation. I urge those of you reading to spread awareness of maladaptive daydreaming; share this letter, talk about maladaptive daydreaming, conduct research into it. Someone right now is living in isolation believing that they are ‘the only person with this thing’.

There’s daydreaming, and then there’s abandoning reality.

By Haley Cohen, Quinnipiac University

Thoughts x August 1, 2019

How to deal with maladaptive daydreaming

4 Ways Maladaptive Daydreaming Is Destructive

There’s daydreaming, and then there’s abandoning reality.

By Haley Cohen, Quinnipiac University

Everyone daydreams. You could be on a long car ride listening to music and pretending you’re in a music video or bored in class wishing you were with the squad on a beach. Usually these kinds of daydreams aren’t a problem, but what if they start interfering with daily life? What if you prefer to stay in your daydreams more often than you participate in reality? That’s where maladaptive daydreaming comes in.

Maladaptive daydreaming is a psychiatric condition that causes intense daydreaming and distracts those who have it from their real life. The daydreams stemming from this condition are often vivid and can last for hours or even days. There is no universal method for diagnosing maladaptive daydreaming and the condition is not listed in the DSM-5. Despite not being officially included in the list of mental disorders, maladaptive daydreaming is still very real and can have destructive effects. These are just four.

1. Difficulty Sleeping

One way that maladaptive daydreaming interferes with daily life is that it takes over your every thought so you can’t shut your brain down to sleep. Daydreams a lot of times have their own characters, plot, setting and other detailed, storylike features. A person’s ability to control their compulsion to daydream will determine how much the daydream interferes with essential functions, like sleeping, but maladaptive daydreamers have a hard time stopping themselves.

Maladaptive daydreamers can get so deep into a daydream they don’t realize they’ve wasted a whole day, and then by the time night falls, it’s not like they can just shut the dreaming off. Even if the people who are afflicted try to sleep, it’s almost too easy to put off a good night’s rest in exchange for continuing an ongoing daydream or coming up with a new one. It’s one scenario if you imagine situations you’d like to happen before you go to sleep, but entirely another if you physically cannot fall asleep because your daydreams are all-encompassing.

It’s a little ironic maladaptive daydreamers trade actual dreams that come from an REM sleep cycle for daydreams, but the desire for this swap makes more sense when you consider that daydreams can be controlled while regular dreams can’t. One of the reasons maladaptive daydreaming is quite addictive is that you can daydream about anything you want and control whatever happens. Living inside your own head seems appealing when you essentially create an entire world of your choosing.

2. Low Productivity Levels

People who have maladaptive daydreaming will spend hours and even days inside their daydreams, which makes for an unproductive lifestyle. They’ll readily abandon their real life responsibilities and activities to daydream. It’s easier than one might think to get caught up in a daydream and lose hours to days without realizing how much time is really going by.

In pretty much every work situation, whether it’s college or a day job, deadlines are a big part of life, and maladaptive daydreamers have a hard time meeting them. In order to meet deadlines, you need to be productive and to work every day or you’ll fall behind. Maladaptive daydreaming makes it extremely difficult to be productive in an ongoing way, so people with this condition will struggle in deadline-driven environments.

In extreme cases, they could lose their job or fall exponentially behind in school because of their inability to stop daydreaming. Maladaptive daydreaming is an escape from reality that feels incredible during the moment, but as soon as you return to reality all your responsibilities hit like a freight train.

Maladaptive daydreaming can be a vicious cycle; someone daydreams excessively to escape reality and the obligations that come with it, they spend days daydreaming, then they inevitably return to reality and find they’ve accomplished nothing in days. Dirty laundry piles up, deadlines aren’t met, etc. Being unproductive once in a while is no big deal, but if you’re constantly not handling your responsibilities and ignoring them to daydream, then there’s a problem.

3. Neglecting Interpersonal Relationships

Daydreaming doesn’t really work if anyone is directly interacting with you, so maladaptive daydreamers often prefer to be alone so they can daydream uninterrupted. There’s nothing wrong with needing some alone time, but with maladaptive daydreamers, being in solitude becomes all they want to do, and they isolate themselves a lot to do it.

Many make hand movements and facial expressions and might even whisper or talk during their daydreams, which gives them all the more reason to daydream alone. When daydreaming becomes the only activity you want to do, however, it can end up damaging interpersonal relationships with real people. People won’t understand why a maladaptive daydreamer always wants to be alone or why they seem uninterested in interacting.

Because maladaptive daydreamers often make up characters or use individuals they already know in their daydreams, it can replace face to face interaction and sever ties with real people. They can feel like they don’t need to see their friends or family in real life because they exist in their daydreams and those are more fulfilling anyway.

Being able to control interactions in their head might appeal to maladaptive daydreamers more than dealing with people in real life. The problem is that then they spend more time daydreaming than having conversations with anyone in reality and lose interpersonal connections as a result.

4. Neglecting Health

Not only will maladaptive daydreamers neglect sleep, their responsibilities and interpersonal relationships, but they also neglect their health. When all you’re doing is daydreaming all the time, it’s easy to forget to eat or move in a way that’s not just pacing around your room. I personally have maladaptive daydreaming, and there are plenty of days where I’ve completely forgotten to eat, only to end up binging at night when I finally stop daydreaming.

Maladaptive daydreamers put almost every ounce of their energy and time into daydreaming, so taking care of their physical health is an afterthought. It’s also not mentally healthy to only think about fantasies instead of trying to strategize or make plans for your real life.

What To Do

It’s unclear what exactly causes maladaptive daydreaming, but it could be a result of comorbid mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, OCD and ADHD. Maladaptive daydreaming relieves anxiety caused by reality at least temporarily, so it makes sense that people with the condition may have anxiety as well.

As far as treatment goes, even though maladaptive daydreaming isn’t recognized as an official mental condition in the DSM-5, you can still get treatment for it if you talk to a psychiatrist. Most psychiatrists have most likely heard of the condition and can recommend medication or types of therapy to limit it.

It’s unlikely maladaptive daydreamers can get rid of their daydreams altogether because they are probably a deeply embedded coping mechanism, but by limiting maladaptive daydreaming, you can lead a much more productive and healthier lifestyle. I’ve learned to be more aware of when I daydream. I think of maladaptive daydreaming as a blessing and a curse because, while it means I have a vivid and especially creative imagination, it also interferes with real life. Looking at it this way has caused my condition to be much less destructive.