Excessive Daydreaming Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD)

Abraham McLaughlin
Excessive Daydreaming Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD)

"Sometimes I think of six impossibilities before breakfast." Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll


  • When daydreaming becomes a problem
  • When does daydreaming turn into maladaptive excessive daydreaming??
  • When is it necessary to ask for professional help?
  • 7 Strategies to improve the quality of life in people with MD
    • Links
    • Bibliographic reference

When daydreaming becomes a problem

Most adults have at least one fantasy episode every day. This can be a positive aspect, as it is linked to creativity, among other important processes. The brain tends to wander and the mind can go from one place to another easily, this is directly related to working memory, also called operational or short-term memory, which implies our ability to retain and remember information in the face of distractions.

However, for some people this wonderful ability can become a serious problem. Eli Somer (2002), studied the phenomenon of excessive daytime reverie, and through his studies determined that people who present this condition can spend around 60% of their waking time, in imaginary scenarios, being able to perfectly distinguish their fantasies from reality; unlike schizoid and psychotic disorders where reality is split.

In her study, Eli found that subjects had used daytime daydreaming as a coping strategy, or "to escape an unpleasant environment," often starting from childhood and can be triggered by abusive and traumatic experiences. It acts as a defense mechanism against any conflict that the individual could be facing.

The person's fantasy can be a combination of what their wishes are and what is socially acceptable according to their cultural context..

"Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality." Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll

When does daydreaming turn into maladaptive excessive daydreaming??

Many people with MD find that their condition can cause them to procrastinate or skip tasks that are important to them in the real context of their daily lives, with a tendency to engage in “behaviors that appear to be unproductive”, thus representing an obstacle for them. The use of social networks can increase daytime reverie episodes, given their characteristics, the type of interactions we carry out every day and the frequency of these.

Time passes without realizing it at times, while these rich fantasies are being processed, they are generally pleasant and fulfill our ideals, although not necessarily. As in a novel, daytime daydreams are often detailed and highly elaborate.

Excessive daytime daydreaming can be associated with dissociative personality disorder (DIDP), since the person separates or represses, the memory or emotion that is directly associated with a trauma of the conscious self, divides in a similar way their immediate environment , both physically and emotionally, generally, the fantasies are not related to the immediate activity or environment of the individual. Dissociation is a creative way to keep something you don't want: "out of the picture.".

Likewise, it has been observed that it can be related to borderline personality disorder, social phobia and post-traumatic stress mainly. An increase in the frequency of MD has been noted in patients with autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Studies have shown that poor quality or insufficient sleep leads an individual to more frequent daydreaming. Likewise, it is related to memory problems, attention problems and slower reaction times.

In fact, daydreaming becomes an inevitable compulsion, as in an addiction, the person has the need to resort to it, finding great relief and pleasure when being in these states, thus reinforcing the behavior.

It is attributed, in large part to the default neural network (RND), which is a set of brain regions that collaborate with each other, the RND could be responsible for much of the activity developed while the mind is at rest, helps organize memories and different processes that need preparation for future events. Currently, more research is being done on its way of operating, as it can reveal important keys to understanding the nature of conscious experience..

Some structures of the RND include the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, and the inferior parietal lobe. Other structures that can be considered part of the network are: the lateral temporal cortex, the formation of the hippocampus and the precuneus. For these people, it can take a lot of work to perform a specific task, this because brain activity is greater when we are daydreaming..

The geometry of the deep parietal areas of the human brain, and specifically of the central part, the precuneus, is key in the brain evolution of Homo Sapiens, said Emiliano Bruner, head of the Paleoneurology Group of the CENIEH (National Research Center on the Human Evolution) in the Journal of Anatomy.

An excessive daydreaming can replace human interaction with broad fantasies that people imagine in their own minds, thus resulting in a detriment to the quality of life and social interactions.

When is it necessary to ask for professional help?

First, you have to determine if daytime daydreaming is excessive or if it represents a problem for you in any area, such as difficulty or inability to complete simple and even fundamental daily tasks such as: not being able to fall asleep when you go to bed, getting up from bed bed, eat, wash, work, perform academic duties, and in your interpersonal relationships, mainly. If it is interfering in any way, it is a good time to ask for psychological support, because as I mentioned before, it can be coupled with other disorders.

Psychologists can provide practical and appropriate strategies to help you, this according to your personality and your specific need. Because each person is unique.

7 Strategies to improve the quality of life in people with MD

If after reading this, you have identified yourself as a daydreamer, here are some guidelines with which I have been able to help my patients with excessive daytime reverie to improve their quality of life:

  1. Keep an agenda and manage your time well to accomplish the tasks that are most important. For this, it is essential that you have well identified your objectives.
  2. The technique of journaling or writing a diary, where you record the frequency of your daytime dreams, as well as additional thoughts and images you want, can be of great help on the path of self-knowledge..
  3. You can include a tone in the discreet on the mobile or a type of vibration on the cell phone that we identify every hour, this can serve as a reminder to observe where your attention is placed. If you find yourself on the beach in Bali sunbathing, instead of paying attention to the weekly business meeting with your boss and colleagues, you can kindly and WITHOUT berating yourself for it, try to focus your attention.
  4. Learn to identify the stimuli that distract your attention and try to isolate them when you require focus. For example: if your favorite music evokes fantasy, you can choose to listen to white sounds that help you concentration or some music that does not distract you, if you cannot do without it to work.
  5. The Pomodoro technique to control the focus time on a specific task. Broadly speaking, it consists of focusing your attention on a task for 25 minutes, and later occupying 5 minutes for another task to disperse or check your mobile devices, for example; the fourth break is 20 to 25 minutes and so on. This technique today helps many people to increase their productivity in what they decide to focus on. You can download an application for your mobile from a Pomodoro or a productivity timer, there are many kinds and designs; can be a tool to train your mind to focus.
  6. Practice mindfulness and meditation techniques.
  7. Suggestion techniques at deep levels of consciousness such as: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Theta to implant new and more beneficial programming can be a valuable tool..

Remember that the brain loves to ramble and automate functions; This may have been a learned function, to escape from a reality that was not pleasant for you, at a certain stage of your life. But in the same way you can un-apprehend this behavior and achieve the focus of your attention with discipline, when it is not associated with another disorder. Otherwise, psychological or multidisciplinary accompaniment may be the most appropriate, psychologists can determine if it is necessary to work together with other health professionals.


  • https://www.neuroscientificallychallenged.com/blog/know-your-brain-default-mode-network
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/reviewers
  • Images: https://pixabay.com/es/

Bibliographic reference

  • Somer, E., Somer, L., and Jopp, DS (2016). Parallel Lives: A Phenomenological Study of People Struggling with Unhealthy Daydreams. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 17, 561-576. doi: 10.1080 / 15299732.2016.1160463

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