Life as a Maladaptive Daydreamer

Edited by Olivia Spahn-Vieira

All my life I would constantly be daydreaming. Everyone noticed the way I would zone out so easily, with my mouth and hands moving as if I was talking to someone in front of me. But the entire time, it was all in my head. I used to joke and say that I had a “writer’s brain,” believing I was one of those people who had really wild imaginations, like in the TV show Jane the Virgin. 

It turned out that I actually had a psychiatric condition called Maladaptive Daydreaming. For those who aren’t aware, this condition is when I constantly daydream that it distracts me from my real life. These daydreams can include just about anything and are usually triggered by real life events. I can think about a person, even if I don’t know them, and place them in an entire story filled with enough details to write out a book; the dreams are so vivid that I feel real emotions from them. I had no idea that this was a real condition until sometime last year. I read the symptoms, took the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS), and it explained so much: why I could go for hours on end just sitting and daydreaming, how I struggled to get things done or pay attention properly, and how sometimes I felt a need to continue daydreaming. Other symptoms I’ve noticed include making facial expressions and having difficulty sleeping at night.

Maladaptive daydreaming can be linked to people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety. While there is no treatment specialized for this condition, one study did find a maladaptive daydreamer who took fluvoxamine, a common drug for OCD, which helps her to control her daydreams. Doctors have often misdiagnosed maladaptive daydreaming for schizophrenia. The important thing to note here is that schizophrenia is a psychosis in which a person cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, whereas maladaptive daydreamers know that their daydreams aren’t real.

Though it might not seem like it, maladaptive daydreaming can interfere with my day-to-day life. I have been in situations when I’ve started daydreaming at the wrong moments; during family dinners, while at work (my manager has caught me several times), while taking tests when I’ve been trying hard to remember the content, and even in the middle of a conversation where I’ve suddenly cut out mid-sentence. My excessive daydreaming has caused me to miss out on a lot of moments in my life and has turned me into someone who does things at the last minute, only because I know I need to get that task done. This condition continues to effect my daily life, where in my head I can be a person who has already accomplished all the tasks in front of me, but in reality I haven't even started.

 

Bibliography:

Dickinson, Kevin. “The Secret Life of Maladaptive Daydreaming.” Big Think, 22 Jan. 2021, bigthink.com/mind-brain/maladaptive-daydreaming?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1.

“Maladaptive Daydreaming.” Healthline, 2017, www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/maladaptive-daydreaming#diagnosis.

Schupak, Cynthia, and Jesse Rosenthal. “Excessive daydreaming: a case history and discussion of mind wandering and high fantasy proneness.” Consciousness and cognition vol. 18,1 (2009): 290-2. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2008.10.002