Maladaptive Daydreaming: A dangerous type of daydreaming

Maladaptive Daydreaming: A dangerous type of daydreaming

Last Friday (Apr. 1) we published an article on Mental Health and after sharing it on several social media platforms, it apparently ended up in a WhatsApp group where a member after reading reached out to me with a question saying, “I’m kindly requesting for your help If possible please,  How can I reduce or fight against maladaptive daydreaming please sir? because it’s seriously eating me off.”

When the term maladaptive daydreaming showed up, one could think perhaps it was April Fools Day joke. Reason being that Maladaptive Daydreaming is not listed among Mental Health though it is one of them. I’m not an expert so I had to do some thorough research before replying.

What did I learn? Here’s what I would love to share:

What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Daydreaming is normal, that is a fact you should get right. However, when a person often has the kind of daydreams involving longer times of daydreaming that results in one even acting out or speaking what they are dreaming then that is dangerous. It is no longer normal daydreaming but maladaptive daydreaming.

Experts at Sleep Foundation described Maladaptive Daydreaming as “ a condition where a person regularly experiences daydreams that are intense and highly distracting -so distracting that the person may stop engaging with the task or people in front of them.”

Causes of Maladaptive Daydreaming

In children, the cause of maladaptive daydreaming is believed to be as a result of trauma. In order to escape these traumatic experiences, children create an imaginary world for themselves, and this at times goes on till childhood.

On the other hand, in adults, Studies indicate the cause of maladaptive daydreaming is a means of coping with difficult feelings such as shame. Thus one creates a world for themselves where all is pitch-perfect without shame and short comings and stress as it is in the real world.

Common signs and symptoms

Very intense and clearly depicted daydreams presented as a story, with characters and setting as though a soap opera.

In contact with real-world experiences, daydreaming occurs.

Expressions are made unconsciously, especially by the face plus repetitive body movements accompanied by whisperings and actions.

Consistent trouble in focusing on tasks as a result of the day dreams.

Difficulty in having sleep.

Maladaptive Daydreaming Vs Normal daydreaming

Normal Daydreaming

Maladaptive daydreaming

Provides a mental ‘break’

Provides an emotional escape

Attention can be restored/redirected at will

Is hard to control, stop, or redirect

Is less important than real life

Is equal to or more important than real life

Is associated with boredom/distraction

Leads to enjoyment and pleasure

Is often used to aid creativity/goals/productivity.

Lessens creativity/Goals/productivity.

Are short

Can last for hours


Can Maladaptive Daydreaming be treated?

The fact that maladaptive daydreaming is not recognized as a Mental Health disorder leaves it with not much research done and hence no evidence-based treatments.

However, some experts recommend maladaptive patients seek professional treatment by visiting health professionals who specialize in treating habits and behavioral addictions.

Next, therapy can also be handy in helping Maladaptive Daydreaming patients. Finding a therapist who specializes in trauma could be of high importance.

Lastly, its recommended that people who are maladaptive patients should : reduce time spent online, get out more , attend events , improve their real-life relationships by going out more.

Mayende Collins Israel

Contributor, The Postdale Daily

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