Maladaptive Daydreaming: I have been lost in a daydream for as long as I can remember…. These daydreams tend to be stories…for which I feel real emotion, usually happiness or sadness, which have the ability to make me laugh and cry…They’re as important a part of my life as anything else; I can spend hours alone with my daydreams….
I am careful to control my actions in public so it is not evident that my mind is constantly spinning these stories and I am constantly lost in them.”
This is a part of the email sent by a 20-year-old woman suffering from maladaptive daydreaming to Professor Eli Somer.
What is maladaptive daydreaming?
Maladaptive daydreaming is a mental psychiatric condition that helps a person escape from daily-life experiences. Most often, this condition arises when a person suffers from intense life experiences like trauma, abuse, or physical distress.
Maladaptive daydreaming was first identified by a professor of the University of Haifa in Israel, named Eliezer Somer.
Daydreaming can distract a person from daily life experiences and tasks. It is also believed that some life events can also stimuli a daydream. These events may include, but not limited to, a conversation on any topic, physical activities, and sensory triggers like listening, smelling, etc.
What is the difference between daydreaming and maladaptive daydreaming?
Daydreaming is normal while maladaptive daydreaming is not. We all daydream and it is quite normal, while the situation gets serious when it gets as worse as maladaptive daydreaming. A person suffering from maladaptive daydreaming is unable to complete her daily tasks, go out to places, even difficulty in handling daily chores.
In such a scenario, the person mostly wants to escape from real life and indulge in her daydreaming activity.
What are the Symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming?
There are a number of symptoms that indicate a person is experiencing daydreaming. A person with maladaptive daydreaming can have one or more of these symptoms. Some of the symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming are:
- Persons with such disorder build up specific stories, characters, and events that have nothing to do with reality.
- Murmuring and whispering, sometimes it includes self-talk.
- Sometimes repetitive movements with one’s body parts.
- Inability to complete daily tasks due to daydreaming.
- Desire to stay in the state of daydreaming without any interference.
- Inability to sleep at night.
- Strange facial expressions occasionally.
Daydreaming can last from minutes to hours as the person indulged in maladaptive daydreaming is sometimes in a state of self-imposed fantasy and does not want to let himself out of it.
How to Diagnose Maladaptive Daydreaming?
Doctors haven’t been able to develop a comprehensive method to diagnose maladaptive daydreaming. However, Professor Somer has invented a scale for identifying the severeness of the disease. He calls it the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS). The scale has fourteen parts and it judges the patient’s daydreaming based on the five distinctive characteristics:
- A person’s ability to control her dreams.
- The severeness of the distress implied by her dreams.
- The effectiveness of the daydreaming to keep the person from doing her daily chores and routine activities.
- The content in the dreams and their quality.
- How the person interprets the benefits of her dreams.
Daydreaming is also diagnosed by comparing it with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is similar to daydreaming except the person does not have control over herself in schizophrenia. The person cannot differentiate if she is living an imaginary life or a real-life in schizophrenia, while in maladaptive daydreaming, the person can control her behaviour in public places and before other people.
How to cure maladaptive daydreaming?
There is no universal or certified cure or treatment for maladaptive daydreaming. However, research has shown that a drug, Fluvoxamine, was helpful in making the patient take care of her daydreams subjectively. This drug is mostly used for patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
We have already discussed that there is no formal or certified set of courses to diagnose and treat a maladaptive daydreamer. Therefore, it is hard to find its satisfactory diagnosis.
But, a person with the symptoms mentioned above should seek medical assistance. Furthermore, if your daydreaming is interfering with your daily life then it may also indicate you are having maladaptive daydreaming.
Despite the absence of proper diagnosis and treatments, you can still join a community of people who have been diagnosed with this disease and have successfully overcome it, and are living a prosperous life now. You can seek guidance and motivation from such people who have faced maladaptive daydreaming in any interval of their lives.