When Daydreaming Becomes Maladaptive and Dangerous?


We all have a condition where we disconnect ourselves from the outer world during a day; it is like traveling to another world and taking night dreams into the light.

Here, we are talking about the daydreaming, the common phenomenon between people of different ages. To a certain level daydreaming is considered normal and a process of pure imagination.

Moreover, it is a consciousness status where you detach yourself from the external tasks and launch into your creative imaginary world. A study shows that a large-scale of people spend more than 45% of their time on daydreaming.

Somehow, it lets you feel relax especially if you are under stress or in a status where you are suffering from something bad but it becomes serious when you go deeply and spend hours falling into imagination.

Why We Do Daydreaming?

First of all, it is the natural state of mind to take a break from being overwhelmed and wondering into a large surface of imagination mainly about the future. But there are many other reasons for daydreaming.

We do daydream to escape our mental status such as depression, anxiety and sadness thus we go far away from our real world to feel more comfortable and relaxed. In a short term it may give you some rest but in fact to manage your stress you need another way.

Moreover, this process can provoke your intelligence and give smart ideas to solve some problems because it focuses on the thing you are caring the most and make you a better thinker.

Mainly, daydreaming works with improving confidence, emotional intelligence and motivation so it comes as an aid in conditions where you are stuck and beg for an internal help.

Our brain seems to be small in shape but it contains numerous ideas, thoughts and feelings that serve us and our souls to be protected and increase admiration.
We can conclude that there is a period of time and characteristics to label the daydreaming and once we cross the line the subject will take a dangerous way like any excess of anything in life causes problem.

Maladaptive or Excessive Daydreaming

It is a psychiatric condition when a person spends a lot of time daydreaming and he uses it to disconnect totally from his real life. Usually occurs as a coping mechanism in response to trauma, abuse or loneliness.

Study shows that not only wondering in mind is a daydream but also it may expressed through hours of watching movies, gaming or extensive book-reading.
Furthermore, even though it gives you feeling of joy and happiness it can lead to sad feelings because we are facing the real world that we live in.


We can organize it as a sickness and it presents some symptoms, causes and treatment. A person with excessive daydreaming can have one or more symptoms but not necessary all of them.

1. Whispering or talking while daydreaming

2. Spending hours in the process

3. Performing repetitive movements while doing it

4. Difficulties in sleeping during the night

5. Difficulties in completing the tasks of the day

6. Desire to stay in daydreaming and never return back to reality

7. Making facial or body expression while daydreaming

8. Wondering with your mind after smelling something or being triggered by anything of the real life


Experts and studies don’t show serious causes behind Maladaptive Daydreaming but we can recognize that most of people try to disconnect themselves from suffering.

After monitoring people it is obvious that the more the melancholy inside the more the daydreaming hours.

For sure we are not talking here about taking the advantages of wondering in mind unless you are travelling too many hours in your imagination trying to escape your life.


Experts developed a scale called the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS) that determines whether the person is a maladaptive daydreamer or not because till now there is no universal scale to measure this condition.

Maladaptive daydreaming is often diagnosed as schizophrenia, which is a type of psychosis because people with schizophrenia cannot differentiate the reality from the dreams.

But it doesn’t work that much because daydreamers know that they are dreaming and choose to stay in. 

People also rate the condition by measuring the symptoms shown above. The MDS consists of 14 parts and it standardizes the five key characteristics of Maladaptive Daydream:

1. The ability of a person to control their dreams and compulsion to dream.

2. The amount of distress caused by daydreaming.

3. The content and the quality of daydreams.

4. The benefits of the daydreaming.

5. How much daydreaming interferes with a person’s ability to carry out their daily activities.

Can Daydreaming Cause Other Conditions' development?

The maladaptive daydreamers can develop depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The reason behind this label is that the ADHD cannot complete their tasks as well as the daydreamers but it is not yet understood their relation and when it comes to depression, you might over think or daydream about depressing situations.

Lauren Cook, a therapist and author based in San Diego says that "Daydreaming can be an indication that someone is suffering from concentration difficulty, which is seen in many mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder".

How to Cure

Once you know the causes that take you everyday to spend hours of daydreaming you can also take the way into healing.

For example, if you are escaping the reality to never face your feelings, now, it is the time to start managing your emotions and treat them.

Engage your mind in beneficial tasks such as physical activity, typing, writing, playing with a fidget or a spinner which are great ways to break your daydreaming and at the same time they are creative methods to engage your brain.

Remember daydreaming is not always a harmful thing unless you are taking care of the content and be aware of hours spending there as well as how intense the daydreams are.

This self-awareness will help you pick up whether you need help.

Written by - Rayan Issa
Edited by – Adrija Saha

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