Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder: Dark Side Of Fantasizing

Daydreaming is an activity we have all engaged in at some point. The term means indulging in one’s fantasies and thoughts while being awake. People generally daydream about pleasant things, for instance, about achieving a set target, meeting the love of their lives, and much more. However, what do you do when this fantasizing gets out of hand? What do you do when this daydreaming affects your personal and professional life? In scientific terms, there is a name for this condition – maladaptive daydreaming disorder.

Although not specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), researchers and medical professionals have identified the disorder among various patients. Let us dive deeper into what maladaptive daydreaming disorder is and how to deal with it.

Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder

What Is Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder?

Maladaptive disorder is a mental disorder where individuals are consumed and engrossed in obsessive daydreams and fantasies, so much so that it affects their daily functioning. The daydreaming reaches a point where the individual feels a complete lack of control over their own mind. 

The disorder was first identified in 2002 by a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Hafia, Eli Somer, in a research paper. The paper looked at six different individuals from a trauma center whose daydreaming habits had hindered their regular functioning and had replaced human interactions. 

What are the Symptoms Of Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Several other pieces of research over the years have put forward a certain set of symptoms for the maladaptive disorder. However, these symptoms are neither comprehensive nor guaranteed due to a lack of more in-depth research. 

The symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming include:

  • fantasizing extensively,
  • vivid and highly detailed daydreams,
  • abnormally long daydreaming sessions,
  • daydreams triggered by real-life situations,
  • trouble staying focused due to daydreams,
  • obsessive desires to continue staying in a daydream,
  • daydreams that disrupt sleep patterns, or
  • whispering or repetitive motions during daydreaming.

Read more: Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder

What causes the maladaptive daydreaming disorder?

There is no exact cause for maladaptive daydreaming as of now. However, several studies have tried to shed light on why some people develop the condition. 

  • As per research by Alexandra Sándor, childhood trauma and dissociative experiences have a possible connection with maladaptive daydreaming.
  • A study by Matthew A Killingsworth has found certain links between depressive and anxiety disorders and maladaptive disorder.
  • As per the International Society of Autism Research (INSAR), people with neurodivergent disorders like autism and ADHD are more likely to suffer from maladaptive daydreaming.
  • Additionally, research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information has also linked maladaptive dreaming to excessive internet gaming.

What are the available treatment options for the disorder?

There is no well-defined treatment plan for the maladaptive daydreaming disorder. However, traditional therapies helpful for other mental health disorders have also been found to be effective in these cases. Research by Cynthia Schupak found that patients with the disorder responded well to drugs administered to obsessive-compulsive disorder patients. 

Talk therapy has also been found to be helpful in several cases. It has helped individuals restructure behaviors and deal with accompanying issues like anxiety and sleep disturbances.

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms.


Maladaptive daydreaming disorder is an often misdiagnosed mental health condition. Despite not being recognized in the DSM-V, it has been observed in several patients. 

Does this mean that daydreaming is a psychological illness? Absolutely not. However, for people suffering from maladaptive disorder, the answer is a resounding yes. 

Society and the medical world should work toward giving a name to such unknown mental health disorders and identify proper treatment plans so that these individuals can live healthier lives. This is why awareness of unknown mental health issues is important. To learn more about unusual psychological disorders, click here.

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