Lost in a Daydream

Lost in a Daydream

First researched in 2002, Maladaptive Daydreaming is defined as “an extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic and interpersonal or vocational functioning” (Somer, 2002). Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD) is part of a cognitive phenomenon known as daydreaming that almost 96% of Americans participate in (Somer et al, 2017). However, while this is considered perfectly normal, MD discusses the negative effects of an excessive amount of daydreaming. 

There are many symptoms that correlate with the MD. The primary symptom is the disengagement of pain by mood enhancing and fantasizing about an ideal version of yourself, for example, intricate and elaborate detail involved in the fantasies (whether that means career, love life). The parts of the daydreams that people who presented with MD showed the most obsession over were the intense emotional “scenes”, positive or negative. The negatives usually involve death, abuse or injury while the positives mostly focused on sexual or romantic love. In addition, kinesthetic activities were reported in 79 of the 90 participants who reported a ritualized activity while performing their fantasy. The most reported was pacing while listening to music and some other movements included rocking, running, and spinning. It should also be noted that these cannot be classified as any psychosis (while the symptoms are very similar) as 98% of the participants reported that they could differentiate between fantasy and reality. (Bigelson & Schupak, 2011). 

So, if there wasn’t a huge impact on a person’s life by Maladaptive Daydreaming, why study it? 

Although the symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming do not have huge impacts, they can be used as diagnostic tools for other issues. A study in 2020 focused on the relationship between MD and Grade Point Average (GPA), as well as its association with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It found that the GPA of maladaptive daydreamers declines significantly. It was also found that there was a significant rise in the GAD-7 (7-item generalized anxiety disorder scale) for those who were assessed as maladaptive dreamers (Alenizi et al, 2020). To sum up, MD is found to be associated with both GAD and a decline in GPA. 

While this disorder is still not included in the DSM-V and has a long way to go in terms of research, it is imperative to study this and understand the connection between Maladaptive Daydreaming and the effects it has on someone. 


Alenizi, M. M., Alenazi, S. D., Almushir, S., Alosaimi, A., Alqarni, A., Anjum, I., & Omair, A. (2020). Impact of maladaptive daydreaming on Grade Point Average (GPA) and the association between maladaptive daydreaming and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.10776 

Bigelsen, J., & Schupak, C. (2011). Compulsive fantasy: Proposed evidence of an under-reported syndrome through a systematic study of 90 self-identified non-normative fantasizers. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1634–1648. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.013 

Somer, E. , Soffer-Dudek, N. & Ross, C.  (2017).  The Comorbidity of Daydreaming Disorder (Maladaptive Daydreaming).  The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease,  205 (7),  525-530. doi:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000685.

Somer, E. Maladaptive Daydreaming: A Qualitative Inquiry. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 32, 197–212 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020597026919

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