Maladaptive Daydreaming

Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is defined as ‘‘extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal or vocational functioning” Somer, 2002. Findings demonstrate that MD differs significantly from normative daydreaming in terms of quantity, content, experience, controllability, distress, and interference with life functioning. Results also demonstrate that Maladaptive Daydreamers endorsed significantly higher rates of attention deficit, obsessive compulsive and dissociation symptoms than controls. In sum, findings suggested that MD represents an under-acknowledged clinical phenomenon that causes distress, hinders life functioning and requires more scientific and clinical attention. Bigelsen et al 2016

Signs and Symptoms

While there is not a listed disorder in the DSM there is much we know about it.  Here is a list of common experiences based on the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale and proposed diagnostic criteria. 

  • Daydreams with intense sense of immersion including visual, auditory or affective properties
  • Daydreaming triggered, maintained or enhanced by music
  • Daydreaming triggered, maintained or enhanced by repetitive movement (pacing, rocking, hand movements)
  • Daydreams accompanied by vocal noises or facial expressions (whispering, laughing, mouthing words)
  • Often daydreams when distressed or bored
  • Daydream immersion and length intensify when alone
  • Becoming annoyed when interrupted or unable to daydream
  • Become distressed when unable to find time to daydream
  • Would rather daydream than do chores, socialize or finish academic/professional assignments
  • Have made repeated efforts to control or stop your daydreaming
  • Strong urge to daydream upon waking up