Understanding Maladaptive Daydreaming: When Daydreaming Becomes Uncontrollable

Understanding Maladaptive Daydreaming: When Daydreaming Becomes Uncontrollable understanding maladaptive daydreaming: when daydreaming becomes uncontrollable
Photo by Tsunami Green on Unsplash

Daydreaming is a common experience, and nearly everyone engages in it to some extent. When we daydream, our minds wander into imaginary scenarios or revisit cherished moments. You might catch yourself daydreaming about your dream vacation while waiting in a long grocery store line or envisioning an exciting adventure during a tedious office meeting. Regardless of the location or content of our daydreams, they represent the unrestricted wanderings of our thoughts and imagination — an entirely natural and healthy mental activity that can offer significant benefits like problem-solving and creativity.

Normal daydreams typically don’t consume a substantial amount of your time or significantly affect your day-to-day life. They whisk us away from the mundane aspects of daily life, taking us on mental journeys to places we’ve never been or allowing us to explore scenarios that ignite our curiosity.

However, while daydreams often serve as delightful mental escapes, it’s crucial to recognize that not all forms of daydreaming are equally beneficial. In some cases, daydreaming can steer away from exploration and lean more towards escapism or coping. This is where the concept of maladaptive daydreaming enters the picture, representing a different aspect and that’s what this article will be about.

What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming, sometimes abbreviated as MD, is a term coined by Israeli psychologist Eli Somer in 2002. It describes a mental health condition in which individuals engage in excessive daydreaming to the extent that it significantly affects their daily life and makes day-to-day activities challenging. Those who experience maladaptive daydreaming become deeply absorbed in their fantasies, sometimes spending hours each day immersed in their imaginary worlds.

Within these imaginary realms, individuals can become so engrossed that they create characters or friends, who may be based on people they know in real life, entirely fictional, or a mix of both. They might replay certain scenes repeatedly or revisit a particular scenario when distracted or interrupted. While for some, these daydreams offer pleasant and enjoyable experiences, others have reported that their daydreams can have negative undertones.

Characteristics of Maladaptive Daydreaming

  1. Excessive Time Spent

One of the defining features of maladaptive daydreaming is the substantial amount of time it consumes. These daydreaming episodes can persist for extended periods, sometimes lasting for several consecutive hours in one sitting. This prolonged immersion in daydreaming can reach a point where individuals neglect their crucial tasks and responsibilities in their real lives. Such excessive daydreaming can lead to a significant imbalance between the time spent in their inner world and the time required for fulfilling their real-life obligations and duties.


2. Intense Emotional Attachment

Another important thing to know about maladaptive daydreaming is that it can make people feel very strong emotions when they daydream. These emotions can be anything from extreme happiness and excitement to deep sadness and anxiety, depending on what’s happening in their daydreams. So, for maladaptive daydreamers, their daydreams can really stir up powerful feelings.

3. Compulsive Nature

Another crucial aspect of maladaptive daydreaming is the compelling urge or craving to daydream, akin to the strong cravings experienced by individuals grappling with addiction. When this urge strikes, resisting it can feel nearly impossible, much like an alcoholic’s longing for a drink. The daydreamer becomes ensnared in a cycle where the impulse to daydream overpowers their ability to control it, even when they consciously wish to abstain from daydreaming or focus on other tasks. Consequently, they often find themselves powerless in the face of this intense longing, which can lead to feelings of distress when they are unable to daydream.

This lack of control over the daydreaming process can be immensely frustrating for someone dealing with maladaptive daydreaming. It can lead to a sense of helplessness and interfere with their ability to carry out daily responsibilities, maintain relationships, or stay engaged in their surroundings.

4. Intricate Storylines

Maladaptive daydreams often unfold as intricate narratives, complete with well-defined characters, elaborate plotlines, and immersive, imaginative settings. These inner worlds are not mere fleeting thoughts but fully realized mental landscapes, sometimes as vivid and engrossing as the experiences of reality. Within these daydreams, individuals may find themselves navigating complex relationships, embarking on thrilling adventures, or solving intricate mysteries.

In fact, many maladaptive daydreamers possess a remarkable talent for crafting compelling fictional stories based on their daydreams. For example, someone might assume the role of an archaeologist in their dream, exploring ancient civilizations with clear, succinct, and vivid mental images of their actions and surroundings.

5. Disconnection

When someone is deep into maladaptive daydreaming, they can become so lost in their daydream that they forget about what’s happening around them. They might not notice what’s going on in the world outside their thoughts and even feel like they’re in a different space mentally. It’s like they’re in their own world, and everything else becomes less important for a while.

6. Repetition

What makes maladaptive daydreaming different from regular daydreaming is that people with maladaptive daydreaming tend to go back to the same detailed stories or ideas again and again. This can continue for a long time, sometimes even for many years. Unlike people who occasionally daydream about different things, those with maladaptive daydreaming often get stuck in a repeating cycle of the same daydreams that stay the same over a long period.


Maladaptive daydreaming, although often overlooked, is a significant phenomenon with a profound impact on the mental health of individuals who experience it. The crucial thing to understand is that it is not a permanent state but rather a coping mechanism that emerges in response to underlying emotional or psychological wounds. These underlying issues, while unique to each individual, are the root causes of maladaptive daydreaming.

The good news is that maladaptive daydreaming can be managed and even overcome with the right tools and techniques. By addressing and healing the core wounds that trigger this coping mechanism, individuals can gradually regain control over their daydreaming behaviors. This process may involve seeking support, engaging in therapy to explore and resolve underlying issues, and learning coping strategies to redirect the excessive daydreaming into healthier outlets.

It’s important to remember that maladaptive daydreaming, like any other mental health challenge, is not a life sentence. With determination, support, and a commitment to self-improvement, you can reclaim your life from the grip of excessive daydreaming and achieve a healthier balance between their inner world and the demands of their day-to-day existence.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with overcoming and managing maladaptive daydreaming without spending years in therapy, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23336-maladaptive-daydreaming#:~:text=Maladaptive%20daydreaming%20is%20a%20mental,or%20adapt%20to%20a%20problem.
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/maladaptive-daydreaming
  3. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-to-know-excessive-daydreaming#:~:text=Since%20escaping%20into%20your%20daydreams,at%20one%20point%20or%20another.
  4. https://daydreamplace.com/what-are-immersive-daydreaming-and-maladaptive-daydreaming/
  5. https://www.waldenu.edu/online-bachelors-programs/bs-in-psychology/resource/why-daydreaming-might-be-good-for-you#:~:text=The%20Positive%20Effects%20of%20Daydreaming,problem%2Dsolving%20and%20enhances%20creativity.&text=And%20when%20it%20comes%20to,pleasure%20has%20also%20proven%20beneficial.
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319400#what-is-it
Share your love
Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

Articles: 838

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *