Psychologists have begun to recognize a segment of the population that is distinguished by their extraordinary capacity for immersion in their daydreams. At their finest, these vivid and obsessive dreams may be a source of joy and comfort; nevertheless, they can also be a severe cause of procrastination and distraction, and they can hinder individuals from preserving their social relationships, taking care of their health, or perhaps even consuming proper meals.
It is becoming more probable that “maladaptive daydreaming” will soon be legally recognized as a mental condition given that research has shown that as many as one in 40 persons may suffer these difficulties. Exactly what is it, then? And what kind of treatment is there for it?
What is maladaptive daydreaming?
Eli Somer, a clinical psychologist working at the University of Haifa in Israel, is credited with being the first person to recognize the phenomena. In the course of his work, he came across six patients who discussed entering vivid imaginations as a means of alleviating the emotional suffering they were experiencing.
A significant number of people who engage in maladaptive daydreaming state that they are motivated to do so by frequent movements. These individuals may even use rocking motions or pacing as a kind of self-hypnosis in order to enter the appropriate mental zone.
Even if their daydreams are very detailed, people who engage in immersive daydreaming do not mistake their daydreams with reality, and their fantasies do not often appear out of thin air. This distinguishes it from psychosis, a condition in which a person has a diminished awareness of their own mental state, and the act of daydreaming, on its own, does not pose a threat to a person’s mental health.
The issue arises when there is an excessive amount of it. As was pointed out in Somer’s original study, a lot of individuals utilize their daydreams as a way to get away from unpleasant feelings. This might provide some comfort in the short term, but it could also hinder the individual from addressing the underlying problems that are likely to be the cause of their unhappiness.
Is it a disease?
Some psychologists, such as Somer, consider maladaptive daydreaming to be a kind of addiction. It is unclear how individuals can be treated for maladaptive daydreaming; nonetheless, there are encouraging indicators that people may learn to regulate their tendency. Somer wrote a case study in 2018 on an undergraduate student called Ben, who was 25 years old and would devote around three hours per day living out his dreams. Ben’s inclination to daydream was exacerbated by his treatment with Ritalin, which was prescribed to him when he was diagnosed with ADHD and given the medication.
Somer, who was assisting Ben in his search for a viable answer, proposed cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness training. Ben would make a careful note of the conditions that appeared to be related with his maladaptive daydreaming, for instance, and establish detailed preparations for each day in an effort to decrease the temptation to daydream. And when he realized that he was sinking into his dreams, he would strive to disrupt the storylines of his daydreams by giving them an ending that was disappointing. By the conclusion of the period of six months, he had cut his habit by around fifty percent.
Somer has now carried out a clinical experiment with hundreds of volunteers, which was based on the success described here. The findings, according to him, are “extremely positive,” despite the fact that the research has not yet been published.