Maladaptive Daydreaming

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on April 26, 2017Written by Erica Cirino on April 26, 2017

What is maladaptive daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming is a psychiatric condition. It was identified by Professor Eliezer Somer of the University of Haifa in Israel.

This condition causes intense daydreaming that distracts a person from their real life. Many times, real-life events trigger day dreams. These events can include:

  • topics of conversation
  • sensory stimuli such as noises or smells
  • physical experiences

This disorder is not part of the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). It doesn’t have any official treatment. But some experts say it is a real disorder that can have real effects on a person’s daily life.

What are the symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming?

A person who is purported to have maladaptive daydreaming may have one or more symptoms of the disorder, but not necessarily all of them. Common symptoms include:

  • extremely vivid daydreams with their own characters, settings, plots, and other detailed, story-like features
  • daydreams triggered by real-life events
  • difficulty completing everyday tasks
  • difficulty sleeping at night
  • an overwhelming desire to continue daydreaming
  • performing repetitive movements while daydreaming
  • making facial expressions while daydreaming
  • whispering and talking while daydreaming
  • daydreaming for lengthy periods (many minutes to hours)

Experts still aren’t sure what causes maladaptive daydreaming.

Can a doctor diagnose maladaptive daydreaming?

There is no universal method used to diagnose maladaptive daydreaming. Somer developed the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS). This scale can help determine if a person is experiencing maladaptive daydreaming.

The MDS is a 14-part scale. It rates the five key characteristics of maladaptive daydreaming:

  • the content and quality (detail) of dreams
  • a person’s ability to control their dreams and compulsion to dream
  • the amount of distress caused by daydreaming
  • a person’s perceived benefits of daydreaming
  • how much daydreaming interferes with a person’s ability to carry out their daily activities

People also rate how often they experience maladaptive daydreaming symptoms.

Maladaptive daydreaming is often diagnosed as schizophrenia, which is a type of psychosis. This is because people with schizophrenia cannot differentiate reality from fantasy. But Somer says maladaptive daydreaming is not a psychosis because people with maladaptive daydreaming recognize that their daydreams aren’t real.

Can maladaptive daydreaming cause other conditions to develop?

Some people who experience maladaptive daydreaming also experience:

It’s not yet understood how these disorders are related to maladaptive daydreaming.

How is maladaptive daydreaming treated?

There is no official treatment for maladaptive daydreaming. In one study, researchers found fluvoxamine (Luvox) was effective in helping a maladaptive daydreamer control her daydreams.

This drug is a common treatment for OCD.

What is the outlook for maladaptive daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming can interfere with your daily life. It can be difficult to get the help you need to deal with this disorder.

Joining a support group to learn about how others cope with their disorder may make it easier for you to keep your maladaptive daydreams at bay. The biggest online forum for maladaptive daydreamers is called Wild Minds Network.

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