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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

Don’t we all just love getting carried away by our thoughts every so often; whisked away from the day-to-day of our lives? For some of us, though, it can be quite difficult to turn off those comforting dream-like sequences.

What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Healthline states that “A person with maladaptive daydreaming will spend long periods engaging in structured daydreams or fantasies.” A curious fact about it is that it’s not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). For this reason, maladaptive daydreaming isn’t officially considered a psychiatric diagnosis in and of itself. However, some professionals are requesting that it become medically accepted as a type of dissociative disorder.

Some symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming, according to Healthline, include:

  • extremely vivid daydreams with their own characters, settings, plots, and other detailed, story-like features, reflecting a complex inner world
  • performing repetitive movements while daydreaming
  • making facial expressions while daydreaming
  • whispering and talking while daydreaming
  • awareness that the internal fantasy world is different from external reality

My Experience With Maladaptive Daydreaming

These daydreams have consumed my life for nearly five years now. It started around the time Hurricane Maria struck. The internet was completely inaccessible and I needed to entertain myself somehow. I’ve always considered myself to be a very creative and insightful  person, so it was no surprise that my imagination began manifesting through my daydreams. Media characters I’d grown fond of accompanied me everywhere I went. First, it took on the form of fanfiction of whichever show was my fixation at that time. Over time, it’s shifted into more original stories that are shaped by my interests.

Often, or even daily, I’ve caught myself whispering to myself as different characters who are all involved in these mental escapades. For hours, I’ll focus on these stories, getting invested in fleshing out each of these characters and their motivations. Backstories and worldbuilding are no exception. The latest story I daydreamed was that of a young woman who led a revolution against a monarchy that had unjustly colonized her people’s ancestral lands. I even developed a secondary plotline that had her younger brother assassinated by a henchman of the colonizers’ prince. When I say that two hours were easily invested in coming up with these backstories, I sincerely mean it.

I believe that my ADHD is definitely involved in the process of these fantasies, given that I tend to hyperfixate on any given storyline that I concoct, rather than prioritize more pressing matters. My inability to focus on assignments isn’t anything new, as I’ve mentioned in my articles about Gifted Kid Burnout Syndrome and procrastination. However, realizing that what I’m experiencing has a name and that there’s information and research on it available online provides me some comfort, as well as a sense of relief. All that time I invest in these made-up worlds soothes me and eases my anxiety about not being in control of stressful situations. At some point, I’m probably going to need to work through that issue, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. My daydreams keep my mind sharp, and all that walking I do while daydreaming keeps me active. All in all, maladaptive daydreaming makes me happy and doesn’t negatively affect my life (beyond a bit of procrastinating, that is), so I’ll probably stay immersed in my head a while longer.

Carola Ríos Pérez is a writer for the Her Campus at UPR chapter. She focuses on writing reviews and analyses about films, series, and books, as well as sharing some of her life experiences through personal essays. In 2021, she graduated with honors from Colegio Nuestra Señora de Belén. Initially, she began her career as a university undergraduate at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras campus as a Communications student, with a major in Public Relations and Publicity. Currently, she is a junior in Humanities, majoring in Modern Languages, with a focus on Portuguese and German. Other than academics and Her Campus, Carola enjoys kickboxing and spending some quality time with her three cats, Keanu, Ginger, and Kai. Her passion for languages is reflected in her music tastes, and there’s no song she won’t listen to at least once. Occasionally, inspiration will strike, and Carola will focus on writing her own stories, heavily inspired by the Young Adult novels that shaped her teenage years. Every once in a blue moon, though, she will either go into a minor baking frenzy to procrastinate or pick up her guitar and “jam” her worries away.