Maladaptive Daydreaming

Maladaptive Daydreaming

Not adjusting adequately or appropriately to the environment or situation.
“Maladaptive coping strategies such as increasing consumption of alcohol”
Maladaptive daydreaming or excessive daydreaming is a psychological concept first introduced by Eli Somer to describe an extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning.

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I first came across this concept on Tumblr, many moons ago. It’s a curious concept, which I would not have thought needed diagnosing at all. Its a funny old world.

I’m always a bit too quick to see myself in every condition I read about, a bit too quick to diagnose myself with everything I read about. So, of course, I immediately thought I had this as well.

Usually it dims after a week or two and I admit I was overthinking it, but sometimes the thought lingers. Such as in this case.

Like in so many things, if pressed, I would ultimately admit that I lie on the borderline of diagnosis in this case. It is inherent to the human condition that such things are hard to quantify. What is “excessive”? What is “extensive”?

Since I was a kid I have made it a habit to daydream before I went to bed – although I called it “nightdreaming” because it was different to daydreams. I distinguished them by thinking of daydreams as involuntary or semi-involuntary. They turn up without meaning to and usually a lot paler by comparison, short and somewhat unsatisfactory for more than a few minutes. By comparison, “nightdreaming” was vivid and full of colour, with plots lasting weeks or more with recurring characters and the most intense emotions.

I used to put that down to the peculiarities of a night time brain – half asleep, half in dreams, less distracted by people, or a lit room, or by some task given me, I thought I simply had more energy for creating. I have since been able to reproduce this effect in the daylight, so that childish theory goes out the window.

Now look at the definition written here:

Maladaptive daydreaming is different from normal daydreaming. Typically, a normal daydream is spontaneous, lasts for a short period of time and is the result of mind wandering. Normal daydreaming is fantasy related. A person experiencing normal daydreaming usually is accomplishing something amazing or experiencing something extraordinary. On the other hand, maladaptive daydreaming is a daydream on steroids. A person with maladaptive daydreaming will spend many hours a day daydreaming and creating an alternative and complex fantasy world. According to Dr. Somer, a person who experiences maladaptive daydreaming can create an alternative world with an alternative family and have the same daydream for years. A maladaptive daydream is detailed and elaborate. It can have different characters and story plots. The characters can have real lives and the day dreamer will become emotionally attached to these characters even when they acknowledge that they are not real. It is important to note that the person who experiences maladaptive daydreaming is fully aware that the day-dream characters are not real and can differentiate between what is real and unreal.

Isn’t that exactly what I just described?

On the other hand it doesn’t “interferes with [my] academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning”.

So I guess not?

There is a Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS) developed in one study, but I can’t find it online now (if I ever find it, I’ll come back and post the results here, out of curiosity).

There are other markers, some of which I supposedly meet, some of which I do not. It is not of much importance either way but it is interesting to consider in any case. The important thing is that it is not interfering with my life. Yet.

I think some of confusion stems from struggling to separate Maladaptive Daydreaming from Special Interest. The daydreams as a child were easier to categorise, where I was literally inserting myself into various TV plots, but now? How about the daydreaming I’ve been doing recently about winning the lottery? That’s a very common daydream that everyone has had at some point or other – but other than one or two key scenes (quitting work, relaxing on a beach, buying some very expensive vodka) I mostly “daydream” about the numbers, seeing what happens if I divide them one way or another. Either way I’m forcing my mind in that direction to escape my recent depression, but does that automatically make it Maladaptive Daydreaming, or is it a Special Interest because of the way I’m playing with numbers? What about when I’m thinking about my book? When I’m universe building, and playing with plots and backstories of background characters, and thinking up new alien species – is that daydreaming, or exploring my special interest?

Maybe this diagnosis – which isn’t even an official medical diagnosis, by the way – isn’t really suited for someone with Autism… 😛


Side note: As of today, I have a Key Posts page on my blog, which is just there to separate the informative posts out from the more casual autobiographical posts. All the posts directly relating to Autism or it’s associated conditions will be found on that page. If you’ve been following my blog since the start (which hasn’t been long, I know) (two months next sunday!) you’ve probably read most of them 😛


One thought on “Maladaptive Daydreaming

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