Maladaptive Daydreaming: What is it?


What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Maladaptive Daydreaming is a dissociative disorder presenting as an extreme form of immersive (or absorptive) daydreaming. Immersive daydreaming (ID) is a trait that enables vivid fantasies. Individuals with ID create elaborate plots so rich in details and emotions in their minds that they seem real.

Many individuals with ID report that their fantasies are highly rewarding. However, for some people, these fantasies become a trap.

These people may live their fantasies more intensely and passionately than their real lives. Many individuals report that they have become addicted to their daydreaming worlds, reporting that they feel depressed, guilty, and alone when they exit their fantasies. Once these vivid daydreams cause distress or impair functioning, they become maladaptive.

Dr. Eli Somer from the University of Haifa in Israel coined the term “Maladaptive Daydreaming” and gave it the following definition:

“Maladaptive Daydreaming is an extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal or vocational functioning.”  

(Somer, 2002)

Why isn’t it like normal fantasy?

To better understand what maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is, it is important to understand that this compulsive form of fantasy is not the same as normal daydreaming.

Unlike MD, normal daydreaming is similar to common mind-wandering, employed for planning or anticipating a future situation, recalling an event, or rehearsing a significant discussion. Erotic fantasies are also universal occurrences and are not necessarily MD either.

MD affects a small percentage of the population and can be co-occurring with other psychological disorders like anxiety and depression.  The experience, while initially rewarding, can become addictive and impairing to one’s daily functioning and social life. MD can be disabling because it “steals” the lives of those who suffer from it, as many claim they waste their lives away in fantasy. 

Unfortunately, MD is a very young field of research and is, therefore, largely unknown among clinicians.

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