In our day to day life, most of us dream, sometimes fantasize about different things but what if someone is vividly experiencing these kind of fantasies commonly known as daydreaming for hours, mimicking some characters, or talking to themselves or sometimes deeply absorbed in some thoughts where may be he/she is the ruler of everything, then it can become scary. The discussion on this issue is known as mental condition, maladaptive daydreaming.
Maladaptive daydreaming is a condition where a person gets immersed into an alternate reality, escaping from some unpleasant history or incident and this kind of thought gets into the way of study/work and sometimes becomes the only source of happiness and can last for hours to days.
Now some may get confused with the term and all these conditions, but there is a slight difference between normal daydreaming and maladaptive daydreaming. It’s very common to get lost in our thoughts for a period of time and experts estimate that we spend about 47% of our waking hours in daydreaming, but it turns into Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD), a condition that needs special consultations, when this daydreaming momentarily distracts someone from the world and they are so intense that they interfere with the daily life. This condition of daydreaming is so distracting that sometimes the person may stop engaging with the tasks or people in front of them.
Now some common facts about MD are;
- It is triggered by real life events most of the time
- The content of daydreams is richly detailed and specified, like the person is featured as an idealized version of himself
- This condition may develop as a coping strategy in response to trauma or an escape route to get away from the hard reality where the imaginary world feels a safer place, also appears to be more common with people having anxiety, depression or Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Maladaptive daydreamer spends most of their time getting distracted by their daydreams, they become so absorbed with their inner world that it becomes harder for them to be in the reality.
Because of the overwhelming and immersive nature of the daydreams people starts neglecting their day to day works and relationships but even after this urge to do so, people generally feel worse emotionally after doing so.
Now, if we talk about some common symptoms of MD, it will cover a whole lot of things including the topic of daydreaming. Normally there is a story with some characters inspired by some soap opera or any real-life incident that triggered the daydreaming process. The story changes as the day to day life of a daydreamer changes. The daydreams can last for several hours and actually it becomes a habit of the daydreamer, he spends several hours in doing this and faces problems in focusing and completing daily tasks along with trouble of sleeping. The daydreamer uses unconscious facial expressions, repetitive body movements, talking or whispering with themselves about the topic related to the daydream.
Normal daydreaming is a part of our existence, it helps us to plan some daily events relives us from boredom boosts our creativity but in case of MD these dreams are most likely to involve violence, control, captivity, rescue power and escape, a nice story or scenario, they basically take the daydreamer to the realm of fantasy. Normal daydreaming is just in our minds but MD includes repetitive movements, facial expressions, verbalizations.
For the diagnostic purpose, researchers have developed a 14 part test which is known as Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MAS) where a person rates the severity and frequency of his dreams on the scale so that the doctor can determine the severity of the conditions Sometimes due to some overlapping symptoms MD can be confused with schizophrenia but the main difference is a maladaptive daydreamer is aware of the fact that his dreams are not real which is not the case of an schizophrenic.
This condition was first identified by Eli Somer, an Israeli professor of clinical psychology at the University of Hafia. In 2011 psychologist Cynthia Schupak, who himself was a maladaptive daydreamer co-authorized a peer received study of 90 self identifying maladaptive daydreamer who fantasize extremely, and the research study found a set of specific behaviour including extensive period of highly structured imaginative experience.
Basically, MD is a coping or adjusting mechanism in response to trauma, abuse or loneliness that leads the dreamer to escape into a complex imaginary world in the time of distress or loneliness. It is one kind of escapist method of avoiding real interaction with families and friends.
Like any other psychological conditions proper psychological counselling and sessions are useful for the treatment of MD. The basic treatment is through symptoms and sleep management also some other methods for improving communication, therapies etc. Last but not the least we need to understand that whatever happens good or bad there is nothing but our courage and confidence on ourselves can only help us and this realization helps a lot in the treatment of this kind of mental conditions.
Written by: Sumaiya Mumu
Sumaiya Mumu is studying at the Armed Forces Medical College and is a guest writer at Pensive Stories.