Everybody daydreams. Whether it be out of boredom or excess creativity, we all have times where we space out and makeup scenarios and situations inside of our heads, controlling details and plots. But what if the daydreaming starts taking over and controlling us?
Maladaptive daydreaming is a relatively recently discovered mental health condition that fits the bill. Yes, you read it right. As the name suggests, MD, as it is generally called, is a condition wherein daydreaming becomes an obsessive and compulsive action that interferes with daily life activities instead of acting as a creative outlet to boredom.
The concept of Maladaptive daydreaming was brought to light to the research community by Prof. Eli Somer. He defined MD as an ‘‘extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning”. A quick google search will show a lot of forums and medical journals discussing this newly discovered condition. To sum up, the most commonly experienced symptoms of MD include but are not limited to
- highly vivid and immersive daydreams
- abnormally long daydreams that are hard to escape
- an inability to carry out daily tasks
- daydreams triggered by external events or stimuli, such as watching a film or listening to music
- sleep disruption and insomnia
- repetitive and unconscious movements when daydreaming, such as rocking back and forth or twitching
These are only common and apparent symptoms, and they can vary widely from person to person. Since this is a relatively new addition to the world of mental health and a lot of research in ongoing, not a lot of credible and solid data is currently available to us. So, the best possible resources to look to at the moment would be to forums run by people for people who are experiencing MD. Taking a look at these forums, it becomes clear that a lot of people all over the world have taken solace in knowing that they are not alone in experiencing things that they thought were exclusive to them. Many people in forums on the internet share their experiences wherein they state that they never truly realised that constantly daydreaming up to half of your day away wasn’t something that everyone did or experienced. When we look deeper into what could trigger these daydreams, a lot of people mentioned music and certain situations in their lives where they wanted a different and idealistic outcome than what they are currently living in to be the major triggers. They also shared that experiencing these highly vivid and compulsive daydreams also affected their social and academic and professional lives.
This could very well be the first time that you are coming across MD. This short article is only to serve as a note of information on this particular mental health condition so that you as a reader can take a deeper look into it, understand and become aware of this lesser-known phenomenon. To those who might feel like they relate to this particular article, it can be confusing to distinguish what the limit to a normal amount of daydreaming is and if at all this is a problem worth addressing. However, if you feel that your daydreaming is taking over your life and you aren’t able to fully control it, looking for professional help to properly diagnose the condition is the best option.
It is up to us to create awareness about lesser-known mental health issues so that we as a community can help people who feel like they might be the only ones suffering and battling their condition.
References and resources:
 Maladaptive daydreaming: Evidence for an under-researched mental health disorder by Jayne Bigelsen, Jonathan M. Lehrfeld, Daniela S. Jopp, Eli Somer, Consciousness and Cognition 42 (2016) 254–266.
 https://wildminds.ning.com/ is a place that has a very active forum dedicated to Maladaptive daydreaming.