Maladaptive daydreaming: meaning, symptoms, causes, and problems

Studies have shown that the average person spends around a quarter to half of their waking hours dreaming. This is true for all people. This is perfectly natural since our brains want something delightful, and dreams provide us with the opportunity if only for a few periods, to transport ourselves to a world in which we would feel better at ease. Research has shown that individuals are more likely to dream about something good than something unpleasant. Some evidence shows that creativity, mood, and productivity are all directly tied to dreams.

Daydreaming, in general, is nearly a beneficial activity that has contributed to developing contemporary levels of knowledge and culture in humankind. However, there are occasions when daydreaming goes too far; for some individuals, it starts to take up too much time and even causes the mind to change. This behaviour is referred to as compulsive daydreaming or maladaptive daydreaming.

What are maladaptive daydreaming and its symptoms?

Maladaptive daydreaming is a more intense kind of daydreaming that distracts from reality and disturbs the usual flow of life, unlike regular daydreaming. Daydreaming may be defined as “dreaming about things that don’t exist.” While daydreaming of this kind is not regarded as a diagnosable mental illness in today’s society, several researchers continue to identify it as an anomaly from the norm.

The primary symptom of maladaptive daydreaming is a state of prolonged self-absorption, which may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The duration of this state can vary. In addition, one of the most significant differences between this kind of daydreaming and regular daydreaming is that the individual makes every effort to stay in the experience and return to it as soon as the chance presents itself. In practice, a person who suffers from maladaptive daydreaming lives in a world completely made up in their head.

In contrast to the typical nature of a dream, which is often abstract and surface-level, his imaginings are rich in colour and specificity, complete with fully realized scenes and people. In contrast to other types of dreams, the individual in question could have feelings of connection to the setting and its people. All of these factors contribute to daily living challenges, including focus and sleep issues. By the way, a person who engages in maladaptive daydreaming has a more difficult time waking up and is less likely to wish to return to the actual world when it comes to their dreams.

What Causes Maladaptive Daydreaming

At this point, researchers cannot determine the origin of maladaptive daydreaming, how it operates, or the factors that trigger it. The main idea is that we do not fully understand how even common daydreaming occurs or what makes up the mind; without this knowledge, it is challenging to understand psychological issues.

Researchers have established a link between maladaptive dreaming and the individual’s exposure to traumatic experiences in their psychological lives and the subsequent growth of coping mechanisms in response to such experiences. In other words, it is analogous to a post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the pain associated with the condition is replaced by a person’s absorption in an alternative reality, in which they feel at ease. Scientists consider it to be a sort of escapism, and it is often used by those who have not only been subjected to traumatic experiences or abuse but also by persons who have spent a considerable amount of time alone themselves.

At first, maladaptive daydreaming is only slightly ahead of ordinary daydreaming in terms of the time and effort involved. This is because maladaptive daydreaming involves simply building an elaborate inner world and walking into a fictional universe. Normal daydreaming does not include this. After some time, and mainly when certain triggers are aroused, such as remembering a psychological trauma, a person may gradually travel into his dream world more and more frequently. Eventually, he may visit there for no reason since only in his dream world does he feel at peace. Triggers may be anything, from a visual or bodily feeling to specific words or loud noises.

According to research, when individuals have disturbing dreams, they often cycle through several themes: power, control, violence, s3x, escape, or rescue. Researchers have shown that maladaptive daydreaming often coexists with dissociation, which may be defined as the process of being disassociated from one’s identity, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and clinical depression.

Why is maladaptive daydreaming a problem?

It would seem that what is wrong with excessive daydreaming since, unlike more aggressive psychological diseases such as neurosis and schizophrenia, it does not pose such a great risk to the individual’s mental health. Furthermore, in some respects, maladaptive daydreaming may even be beneficial since it allows a person to get absorbed in a world that has a beneficial influence on them. But in point of fact, this issue should not be undervalued since it progressively starts to interfere with many aspects of everyday life, including studying, working, maintaining relationships, and other activities. The individual’s socialization deteriorates, he gets more estranged from others, and he loses the ability to accurately see reality.

The other problem is that maladaptive daydreaming does not have the same destructive effect on the personality as schizophrenia and does not ruin the body and mind in the same way that substances like alcohol and illicit drugs can. It seems to be nothing more than an effort by a person to protect themselves from unpleasant events without putting themselves in grave danger. Therefore, efforts to take a person out of the virtual reality they have built, where they feel comfortable and secure, might be incomprehensible, particularly if the wrong approach is used. In this case, the virtual reality the person has built is where they feel comfortable and protected.

Suppose you are dealing with a problem analogous to this one and interfering with your day-to-day activities. In that case, it is feasible for you to seek assistance from specialists in the area of psychology who have expertise in cognitive-behavioural therapy and mindfulness practice.

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