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The misdiagnosed disorder: Maladaptive daydreaming...

by Jessica M about a year ago in interview

Information on MD and an interview with an individual with the proposed disorder: MD.

The misdiagnosed disorder: Maladaptive daydreaming...
Photo by Wenniel Lun on Unsplash

Most of us daydream, we plague our days with thoughts of potential scenarios. But for some, daydreaming is more than a simple past time.

In fact there is a proposed disorder which effects some individuals, named Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD).

Maladaptive Daydreaming is a condition in which the individual experiences extreme daydream fantasies for long periods of time.

Those with MD have articulated characters within their daydreams, often they share personal bonds with these characters.

MD is not as wonderful as it may seem, individuals with the disorder can spend over 6 hours a day daydreaming. Their daydreams are a result of trauma, abuse or loneliness and are used as a coping mechanism.

Individuals with the disorder often neglect real life relationships and responsibilities. Their daydreams may also be triggered by real life events such as, topics of conversation, sensory stimuli (noises or smells) or from physical experiences.

According to the website ‘Healthline’ the symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming are:

  • Extremely vivid daydreams with detailed settings, characters, plots etc.
  • Daydreams which are triggered by real life events.
  • Difficulty completing real life tasks.
  • Difficulty sleeping at night.
  • An overwhelming desire to continue daydreaming.
  • Possibly performing repetitive movements whilst daydreaming.
  • Possibly making facial expressions whilst daydreaming.
  • Possibly whispering and talking whilst daydreaming.
  • Daydreaming for lengthy periods of time.

At the moment, MD is a proposed disorder, meaning that it is not in any statistical diagnostic manuals on disorders. However there are active individuals attempting to get more research for MD.

The main individual who is researching MD is Dr Eli Somer, a professor who coined the term Maladaptive Daydreaming .

What research is there currently?

There is some research on Maladaptive Daydreaming , most of the research papers have been created by Dr Eli Somer and his research team at the University of Haifa.

They have a website which can be used to access resources on the disorder (link).

The newest research paper available online on September 10th 2019 named ‘Maladaptive Daydreaming: Towards a nosological definition’ discusses MD as being ‘an excessive and vivid fantasy activity that interferes with individual’s normal functioning and can result in severe distress’.

It goes on to explain that research has shown that MD may be co-morbid with other disorder’s like ADHD, OCD and Dissociative disorders.

Unfortunately because of this similarity many individuals with MD are being diagnosed with other disorders. MD is also often mistaken for other mental activities for example lucid dreaming and autistic fantasy.

But it is important, to note that MD should not be mistaken for any of these mental activities, in Dr Eli Somer’s newest paper (linked below) he compares the mental activities with MD showing that there is a large difference between them.

  • Research on MD has already marked some qualities of the condition:
  • Those with MD usually discover their ability to ‘activate fanciful fantasies during childhood’
  • Those with MD usually ‘need privacy to engage in mental activity’
  • They often perform movements such as pacing whilst daydreaming, and music can trigger daydreams.
  • Those with MD tend to struggle with other issues such as ‘ongoing social and emotional difficulties, such as shame and social anxiety’.
  • ‘MD tends to develop as a gratifying and comforting experience’ but is also at times harmful.
  • Individuals with MD tend to have daydreams that are ‘fanciful’ and can be first or third person, they often give emotional support to the individuals and have an idealized character which represents the individual.

Past researchers have stated that MD represents a behavioral addiction, and Dr Eli Somer explains in his paper that ‘MD can be represented as a vicious cycle’. This cycle can be described as distress leads to daydreams which leads to more distress and impaired functioning, which then leads onto more daydreams and so on.

By mohammad alizade on Unsplash

Support for those with MD

Although MD has little research, there are many different websites where communities gather to discuss their own experiences with the disorder.

On Tumblr there is a page about MD (link)

An article about daydreaming: (link)

Dr Eli Somer has a account on Instagram, which refers to the new research on MD: (link)

There are also other MD accounts which have personal experiences and more information on the disorder, below is a link to the individual's account, from the interview: (link)

Here is the link to the MD research website: (link)

The Healthline explanation of Maladaptive Daydreaming: (link)

And Eli Somer’s account on the research platform (link)

Below I have attached an interview that I did with an individual with MD, we spoke about her experiences, her daydreams and other important subjects. I am close with this individual and she has agreed to answer these questions. She has also helped me put together this article for those with MD.

The interview: An individual with MD…

When did you begin experiencing MD?

I know that I’ve been daydreaming most my life, the earliest daydreams I can remember from when I was 5, they featured two characters named Salt and Pepper.

Can you tell me about how your daydreams affect your life?

I’m actually pretty lucky because my daydreams don’t interfere with my education too much, but it can be very distracting especially when I’m trying to do homework. It causes me to get annoyed easily at others whom interrupt my daydreams accidentally.

Can you tell me what you believe triggered your MD?

It’s believed that MD is developed from trauma, I’m not sure what triggered my MD when I was really young but I think now it’s because of loneliness and it’s my way of coping with stress.

Can you tell me more about your daydreams?

All my daydreams feature my parame which is a idealized version of myself, most of my daydreams are violent, I believe this is a way of coping with my real life stress and trauma.

Have you ever acted out your daydreams and how have you acted them out?

I act out as many daydreams as I can at home, I think it’s a way for me to feel closer to them. Due to this fact I’ve even acted out violent daydreams in unhealthy ways, which may be seen as harmful.

Do you act out any repetitive movement’s whilst daydreaming?

Most people I know pace, I sometimes wander around the kitchen.

References and credit

I give full credit of the report quoted, (Maladaptive Daydreaming: Towards a nosological definition) created by Dr Eli Somer, Adriano Schimmenti and Meta Regis.

Here is the link to the report, for further reading (link)

I also give credit to the website Healthline (link)

Finally I give credit to the MD Tumblr page and to my sister, who participated in the writing of this article.

Thank you for reading.

-Jessica M

Jessica M
Jessica M
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