Daydreaming is a common and widespread human phenomenon. Sometimes, however, daydreaming can evolve into extreme and maladaptive behavior. Coined by Israeli professor of Clinical Psychology, Eli (Eliezer Somer), the term maladaptive daydreaming refers to a psychiatric condition which involves engaging in uncontrolled and extensive periods of highly immersive and vividly fantastical daydreaming.
According to the British Psychological Society(1), people with maladaptive daydreaming were found to spend an average of about four hours per day lost in their own thoughts.
So, how to stop daydreaming? Let’s find out more about the symptoms and causes of maladaptive daydreaming and ways to effectively cope with it.
Common Symptoms of Maladaptive Daydreaming
The following are some common symptoms that characterize individuals who are maladaptive daydreamers:
- They spend hours absorbed in their own imaginative experiences and fantastical thoughts;
- They are more likely to be socially withdrawn and neglect relationships with family and friends;
- They may have trouble focusing and coping with daily life;
- They tend to neglect their health and may experience sleep disturbances;
- They generally lead an unproductive lifestyle.
The maladaptive daydreaming disorder is currently treated as a neural biochemical imbalance. The causes of this disorder, however, have been increasingly linked to loneliness, trauma, and abuse, especially during childhood. Individuals use it as a coping mechanism to escape from the so-called ‘unpleasant reality’.
They may also resort to excessive daydreaming as a means to vent out anger, rage, or pain, reimagine painful real-life interactions, or gain temporary relief from anxiety and stress.
Did You Know!
|People who suffer from maladaptive daydreaming may spend about 60 percent of their waking life in their own reveries.|
What Can You Do to Control Maladaptive Daydreaming?
If you find yourself in a mental state of wandering constantly, here are a few things you can do to take control:
1. Recognize the Symptoms
Acknowledging your symptoms is the first step towards helping yourself deal with the maladaptive daydreaming disorder. It can also benefit you if you can try and identify the underlying cause for your excessive daydreaming, which may help you overcome the problem. For example, you may be feeling unfulfilled, and you probably resort to compulsive daydreaming as a means of comfort.
By recognizing this, you can rediscover ways to find fulfillment, such as finding a job you love or pursuing a degree that can provide you with more opportunities. If you are unable to recognize the specific cause for your disorder, it is still crucial that you remain aware of your symptoms and reach out for support.
2. Identify and Avoid Triggers
Try to recognize triggers that drive your mind to wander. Music, boredom, and sadness are some common triggers that are known to spur episodes of daydreaming. If you can recognize what prompts your daydreaming, it will be easier for you to break out of the cycle.
3. Keep Your Mind Active and Engaged
You will probably come across this advice a lot, but this is one of the surest ways to treat maladaptive daydreaming. Try to keep your mind preoccupied during the day. Reading or solving crosswords and puzzles is one way to engage your brain actively. You could also find a hobby or join a club, take up dancing, play a sport, or simply exercise your body. This will help you override the internal commotion in your head.
4. Get Enough Sleep
A new study(2) predicts that sleep disturbances tend to increase the frequency of mind-wandering episodes. A possible explanation for this, according to Professor Eli Somer, is that poor sleep reduces executive cognitive control and lowers functional connectivity, thereby reducing a person’s ability to prevent his or her mind from wandering.
It is important, therefore, that you get good quality sleep on a regular schedule. Minimize caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other such substances that can interfere with your sleep.
5. Keep a Journal
Another useful exercise is to record your thoughts in a journal. If you can record how frequently you daydream, what exactly you were thinking about, and discern people, places, and things that trigger these episodes daily, it can help you uncover possible trends that drive your behavior. You can use the journal to take steps to alter your behavior.
6. Consult a Therapist or Find a Support Group
If you think that these simple positive changes aren’t helping you enough, consult a therapist who can help you develop more effective coping skills. Sometimes, just the small act of verbalizing your feelings to someone can help you cope with your emotions better and motivate you to make changes in your behavior.
Online support groups are also a great tool. It can help you connect with people who share similar feelings and experiences.
Daydreaming isn’t always bad! There are various benefits to daydreaming, too. Some people think that the ability to imagine makes you more creative, improves your working memory, and can even lower your stress levels. But, it is essential not to make it a habit.
If you are troubled by obsessive daydreaming, try to replace unproductive thoughts with a more realistic visualization of things, like what goals you would like to achieve or how you can solve a particular problem. Channel your imagination into improving your own life.
1. Is Daydreaming a Symptom of ADHD?
Daydreaming doesn’t necessarily mean you have ADHD. However, daydreaming tends to be more intensified in children with ADHD as their ability to self-regulate the brain is impaired.
2. What Are the Early Signs of ADHD?
Some common signs exhibited by children with ADHD include inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Daydreaming is another classic symptom. Children with ADHD may be hyper-focused while they are daydreaming so much so that it can be challenging to get their attention back, affecting their day-to-day functioning.
3. Is Maladaptive Daydreaming a Symptom of Anxiety?
Maladaptive daydreaming is often seen in individuals with anxiety disorders. It helps them manage their fear and anxiety. It is also associated with various other symptoms such as trauma, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and attention-deficit disorder.