Maladaptive Daydreaming: Can It Lead to Other Conditions & How is Maladaptive Daydreaming Treated?

What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Daydreaming is a normal thing in people’s everyday life. Some experience it frequently which causes an interruption in their day-to-day life. It is a sensation of wakeful indulgence into those thoughts that are not related to the immediate surrounding or activity. It is mostly a pleasant experience in which people indulge in experiences or fantasies they desire or goals they want to achieve.

In maladaptive daydreaming, a person spends long hours or long periods of time dreaming, which can affect the focus on studies and work. It shares features with behavioral addictions, such as video game addiction, internet addiction or alcohol addiction.(1) This type of daydreaming distracts the person from real life.

Events that trigger daydreaming are as follows:

  • Conversation topics
  • Internet use
  • A picture
  • Physical experiences
  • Sensory stimuli

Maladaptive daydreaming is not a separate diagnosis, which means it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. It does affect the quality of life and experts believe it to be a separate diagnosis.(2)

Symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming

A person experiencing maladaptive daydreaming would experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in completing daily tasks
  • Daily events being a trigger of daydreaming
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Whispering and talking while daydreaming
  • Having distress about daydreaming
  • Making facial expressions while daydreaming
  • Daydreaming for long periods(2)
  • Repetitive movements while daydreaming

Maladaptive daydreaming differs from regular daydreaming in controllability, frequency, time period and experience.(3) According to experts it involves structured, intentionally generated fantasy narratives.(4) It occurs spontaneously and relates to everyday life.

What is the Maladaptive Daydreaming Test?

A scale that contains a 16-items test was created by Professor Somer to be used by doctors to assess a person engaging in maladaptive daydreaming.

It contains 16 questions related to daydreaming triggers, its physical signs, how an individual feels about daydreaming, its impact on daily life, and whether a person listens to music while daydreaming.

How to Diagnose Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming cannot be diagnosed, nor does it has its own diagnosis. There are tools used by doctors to assess this condition.

The 16-item maladaptive daydreaming test helps in determining if a person is experiencing maladaptive daydreaming. There is another tool that helps in the assessment of this disorder, which is the Structured Clinical Interview of Maladaptive Daydreaming (SCIMD).

There are a few other tools to determine dissociation, obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and any other overlapping condition.

Can Maladaptive Daydreaming Lead to Other Conditions?

Maladaptive daydreaming can affect the quality of life and may affect the ability to focus, be productive in work and studies, attention in real-life relations, and mental wellbeing.

A few other conditions reported alongside maladaptive daydreaming are:

A study was done and it was found that 25% of people with maladaptive daydreaming attempted suicide at least once.(2) However, the link between these two disorders is unclear.

Treatment of Maladaptive Daydreaming

The treatment for Maladaptive Daydreaming mainly includes:

  • Reducing Fatigue: This can be obtained by increasing the amount and quantity of sleep. Stimulants such as caffeine can be helpful in combating tiredness.
  • Awareness of Symptoms: Being informed about the symptoms may help them notice and interrupt the condition.
  • Identifying Triggers: Knowing triggers and preventing them can reduce the frequency.

Counseling therapies including cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness meditation can be helpful in treating maladaptive daydreaming. A study conducted in 2018 found that a person who was given counseling therapy for 6 months had a 50% reduction in daydreaming.(5)

A technique called exposure and response prevention (ERP) can be used to stop or reduce maladaptive daydreaming.(2) It works by changing the end story plots by making them unpleasant to the person.

Another study found medications like Fluvoxamine helping in managing daydreaming.(6) This drug is prescribed by the doctor for obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Maladaptive daydreaming can interfere with daily living. People can join support groups to cope with the condition. The above treatments and managing the related conditions can be beneficial.

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