Maladaptive Daydreaming

maladaptive daydreaming

Last Updated August 23rd, 2019

What makes daydreaming a maladaptive activity?

Daydreaming, in its most harmless form, is an activity characterized by a striking detachment from the physical reality and getting hooked onto a stream of visions and fantasies which are experienced in a wakeful state. Most of these pertain to emotionally charged visions associated with positive emotions such as happy and pleasant thoughts, aims and ambitions, and even imaginary scenarios of wish-fulfillment.

Studies reveal that people stuck in monotonous jobs which require repetitive tasks are the ones who indulge in daydreaming the most. Experts believe that this is our brain’s way of easing the boredom one has to routinely face. While on the surface daydreaming looks harmless and even amusing to some extent, there comes a limit beyond which this activity could turn maladaptive. The term maladaptive means something which is not aligned or adjusted with respect to its environment. In the context of daydreaming it refers to the extreme extent of daydreaming that not only continues for extended periods of time (hours and hours) but also disrupts everyday living.

These vivid dreams replete with personal wishes and fancies tend to overpower conscious thinking and functioning that can even cause neglect of important real-life entities such as a job or interpersonal relationship.

Maladaptive daydreaming or MD, though not registered as a definite psychiatric condition in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders), can still lead to psychological distress and clinical symptoms that borderline with several other mental conditions.

What could be the cause behind this? What are the symptoms?

Though dreaming and casual mind-wandering have often been topics of great intrigue among psychiatrists since ages, the phenomenon of maladaptive daydreaming was first formally studied (and named) by Eli Somer, a clinical psychologist of the University of Haifa, Israel. The symptoms of extreme detachment from reality and dissociative daydreaming were noted among the survivors of child abuse and trauma.

For maladaptive daydreamers, this subconscious act could manifest as a defense mechanism against distressing thoughts and memories. It provides an escape route to victims and sufferers from the troubling thoughts.
There could be a number of triggers and/or risk factors that could push someone into the act of maladaptive daydreaming. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Boredom or being stuck in a job/task that doesn’t require critical/creative thinking.
  • Being stuck in situations one often finds irksome or troubling such as long traffic jams, meetings, long speech etc. Many consider music to trigger dysfunctional level of daydreaming.
  • Trauma and abuse, as mentioned before, are strong indicators of a higher probability of maladaptive daydreaming.
  • The main symptoms exhibited by a person involved in maladaptive daydreaming are Daydreams which are extremely vivid in nature and rank high in detailing such as characters and plot lines.
  • Daydreams that are triggered by real-life situations. Daydreaming that restricts normal functioning and completion of tasks.
  • Addictive tendency to daydream; an increased desire to daydream even at the cost of sleep.
  • Facial movements, talking, whispering etc involved during daydreaming.Daydreaming that goes on for hours.

It is commonly observed that individuals with a history of trauma, violence, and harassment show the symptoms of dissociation. This term refers to the separation of initially related cognitive processes to the extent that these segregated entities start behaving as independent units. The most common example of dissociation in action can be seen among patients of multiple personality disorders

Could maladaptive daydreaming be a precursor to serious mental health disorders?

In the neuropsychiatric circles, maladaptive daydreaming is studied from three different angles – a lack or imbalance of attentive capacity, a behavioral addiction, and a disorder of the OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) spectrum. The detachment from reality makes it an issue of attention.

The fact that this activity often becomes an escape route from reality that turns addictive links this act to addiction. And lastly, since a significant chunk of maladaptive daydreamers also show high OCD symptoms; MD is often studied in close association with this disorder.

Studies reveal that individuals with MD who engaged in this activity for more than four hours a day also showed a high tendency of OCD symptoms, anxiety, dissociative behavior, and depressive thoughts.

While some maladaptive daydreamers find this activity to have a more vicious and strangulating hold on their lives, others find this activity “pleasure-giving”, much similar to addictive habits. One must understand that MD is not necessarily associated with positive and pleasant feelings only. These might also be linked to negative and depressive thoughts, often leaving the individual crying and depressed.

Thus, it can be safely assumed that maladaptive daydreaming, if not a sub-type of mental illness, does overlap with a number of mental health conditions. However, more research is needed to evaluate whether it’s a precursor to mental illnesses or a result of the same.

Try these much sought after products that will help you find your inner peace and reduce your instances of maladaptive daydreaming.

Diagnosis of maladaptive daydreaming

Since the research on this condition is still ongoing there are no universally-accepted diagnostic tools to measure the onset and extent of MD. However, there is an MDS or maladaptive daydreaming scale that helps in evaluating if a person is daydreaming at a dysfunctional level.
The most critical elements of this scale are:

  • The frequency of daydreaming.
  • The level of detailing in the daydreams How much in control of the dreams the said individual is.
  • The level of distress amounted due to the daydreaming. The level of perceived benefits from the dreams.
  • The level to which an individual’s day-to-day functioning is affected/inhibited due to daydreaming.
  • If an individual ranks high in these critical categories then he/she is believed to be experiencing maladaptive daydreaming.
  • However, one must remember that this scale is not universally accepted and open to a number of debates and critique.

Treatment and possible preventive measures

maladaptive daydreamingThe absence of a medically-recognized diagnostic tool makes it difficult to devise a specific treatment course for maladaptive daydreaming. However, experts posit that the following techniques can aid in reducing the magnitude and frequency of maladaptive daydreaming:

  • Get proper sleep. This includes enhancing the quality of your sleep by practicing proper sleep hygiene and getting the required amount of hours of sleep every night as per your age.
  • Discuss your issues openly with your friends, family, and colleagues – in short anyone who can understand this predisposition and help you “wake out” of the MD state.
  • Maintain a trigger journal. Be aware of what situations trigger this state and be wary of them.
  • Refer a CBT specialist. CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy can help in focusing on the core issue and provide you with better coping mechanisms.
  • Though medication might not be suitable for all patients of MD, it might help some manage the symptoms. The most commonly prescribed drug is fluvoxamine, an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) that is used to treat anxiety disorders.

Unfortunately, there are no definitive preventive measures for MD. Daydreaming is something which is practiced consciously or subconsciously by all. However, it is difficult to decode the fine line between normal daydreaming and maladaptive daydream on the surface. If one is prone to excessive daydreaming and/or finds his/her daily routine being impacted by this singular activity, he/she should consult expert help.

Facts

  • Certain studies show that compulsive maladaptive daydreamers could spend as much as 60% of their waking time in daydreaming.
  • This condition was first formally studied by Eli Somer of the University of Haifa in 2002 where he found 6 survivors of child abuse showing the high tendency of imagination and daydreaming.
  • Though a history of abuse is seen in many people with MD, it is also experienced by people who have had a normal childhood.

Facts

  • Try to analyze and understand what negative repressed emotion is at the core of your MD tendency – guilt, embarrassment, shame, fear etc.
  •  Refer to a specialist in this field and discuss your issues and symptoms openly.

Facts

  • Observe what the triggers are. Triggers could range anything from nostalgic thoughts to a certain piece of music. Avoid these at all costs.
  • Try to change your lifestyle and/or profession so that you aren’t left feeling stuck, bored, or under-utilized mentally.

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Try to analyze and understand what negative repressed emotion is at the core of your MD tendency – guilt, embarrassment, shame, fear etc.
  • Refer to a specialist in this field and discuss your issues and symptoms openly.
  • Observe what the triggers are. Triggers could range anything from nostalgic thoughts to a certain piece of music. Avoid these at all costs.
  • Try to change your lifestyle and/or profession so that you aren’t left feeling stuck, bored, or under-utilized mentally.
Don'ts
  • Treat maladaptive daydreaming as a harmless thing. It could severely hamper day-to-day functioning and cause issues within personal and professional life.
  • Assume that you have the power to control the frequency and extent of your maladaptive daydreaming condition every time.
  • Follow an erratic sleep schedule. Make sure that you get a healthy amount of REM sleep every night.

 

 

 

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Hepatitis B Envelope Antigen (HBeAg) The HBeAg or hepatitis B envelope antigen test is a screening test used to diagnose the onset of…
dhea adrenal
Androstenedione Test Androstenedione is produced by the adrenal gland, the test of the levels of Androstenedione helps in the evaluation…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Agave nectar: The bitter truth about this sweetener revealed Agave nectar is considered to be sweeter than the normal table sugar and even contains higher amounts of…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Tattoo Aftercare: The best practices to follow once you get inked Planning getting permanently inked? Make sure you follow these critical tattoo aftercare techniques to avoid infectious agents attacking…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
complement c4 test
Anemia Profile Anemia Profile test (Basic) is a blood screening test that measures the levels of important components of the…
immunoglobulin M
Immunoglobulin M Test Immunoglobulin M is the largest and the first produced antibody which helps in the prevention or fighting of…
shoudler exercises
Keep your shoulders pain-free with these shoulder exercises Shoulder exercises are important in order to prevent chronic back and neck pain. Learn more about how you…
macadamia nuts in food
Proven health benefits and nutrition of macadamia nuts Know all about scientific, amazing health benefits of macadamia nuts, its nutrition, recipes, how to consume, price and…
macadamia nuts in food
Proven health benefits and nutrition of macadamia nuts Know all about scientific, amazing health benefits of macadamia nuts, its nutrition, recipes, how to consume, price and…
sugar toxic health
Sugar: 7 new shocking truths revealed about the sweet poison Can drinking soda bring you closer to death? Is sugar slowly poisoning you and your family? You would…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
Beware of these common foods that cause high bodily inflammation! Maybe its the long list of inflammatory foods in your diet that is making you frequently sick. Find…
The complete “what to eat” guide for gluten intolerance Does eating breads and pastas often makes you nauseous? Gluten intolerance is a common reason why you might…
Hibiscus: Nourish your beauty and health with these vibrant blooms Hibiscus is a trumpet shaped flower found abundantly in tropical countries. It has been historically used for its…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
Erythritol: A healthy sugar substitute or yet another marketing ploy? Erythritol is a popular choice of a healthy alternative sweetening agent in foods. But how healthy can a…
bradycardia fainting
What does hypoglycemia look like when you don’t have diabetes? Hypoglycemia is not just a disease that co-occurs with diabetes. Non-diabetics could also become hypoglycemic. Hypoglycemia can be…
Internal bleeding brain
Beware: Ignoring these tell-tale signs of stroke could cost a life The signs and symptoms of a stroke differ depending on which part of the brain has been affected.…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble tea became popular.…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
EEG
Electroencephalogram – EEG EEG or electroencephalogram is a diagnostic tool used to access the functioning of neurons and brain activity to…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Tachycardia heart
Cardiac Profile Cardiac profile is panel of blood tests performed to check cholesterol level and other heart disease markers to…
iron deficiency profile
Iron Deficiency Profile An iron deficiency profile is a battery of blood tests which are performed in order to determine the…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…