Maladaptive Daydreaming and Dissociative Identity Disorder

Daydreaming is a typical stream of consciousness that detaches humans from current tasks when their attention drifts in a personal direction. A large study found that their participants reported on certain days under the right amount of stress, they daydream an average of 47% of their waking hours.

While daydreaming is an ordinary human conveyance, what happens when daydreaming takes over one’s life to the point of becoming a disorder? This condition is known as maladaptive daydreaming and is the topic of this post.

What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

First identified by many psychiatrists, psychologists, and researchers, Professor Eliezer Somer of the University of Haifa in Israel determined that maladaptive daydreaming is a psychiatric condition (Somer et al., 2016). Maladaptive daydreaming has not yet been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) in the United States but is being considered for inclusion in the International Classifications of Disease (ICD) published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Regardless of its official status, many mental health professions consider it to be a true psychiatric phenomenon that can interrupt everyday life for many. People experiencing maladaptive daydreaming may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Daydreams that are triggered by real-life events
  • Extremely vivid daydreams with characters, settings, plots, and other details
  • Difficulty completing everyday tasks due to daydreaming
  • Difficulty going to sleep at night
  • Feeling an overwhelming need to continue to daydream
  • Making facial expressions while daydreaming
  • Whispering and talking while daydreaming
  • Daydreaming for lengthy periods lasting for many minutes to hours

Events of maladaptive daydreaming are often triggered by real-life events, including topics of a conversation, watching a program on television, noises, smells, and physical experiences, to name a few.

While at first, this condition may seem mundane and unimportant maladaptive daydreaming can interfere with work and home life, leaving its victims feeling isolated and alone.

Maladaptive Daydreaming and Dissociative Identity Disorder

A paper published in 2020 used 100 highly traumatized individuals to try and understand the connection between maladaptive daydreaming and dissociative disorders. They found that individuals with maladaptive daydreaming have high levels of dissociation and that individuals with dissociative disorders have high levels of maladaptive daydreaming.

The researchers hoped that their findings of maladaptive daydreaming could help them understand dissociative identity disorder (DID) cases where there are large numbers of ‘personalities’ (Ross et al., 2020). Ross et al. state in their paper that while many multiples have a few alters, there are those living with the disorder who are considered polyfragmented or consisting of hundreds or even thousands of personality fragments. Those who are polyfragmented seem to maladaptive daydream more often than those who have fewer identity states.

The above observation has implications for the understanding of and psychotherapy for DID. In previous publications published in 1989, multiple personality disorder (as DID was known then) recognized that there is only one person with multiple personality fragments, not multiple personalities inhabiting one body. It is hoped with further study of maladaptive daydreaming; there might come more insights into the psychology of polyfragmented dissociative identity disorder.

Treating Maladaptive Daydreaming

Currently, there are no official treatments for maladaptive daydreaming. However, one study found that medications commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) were found effective in helping a maladaptive daydreamer control daydreaming.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find help for maladaptive daydreaming, just as it is to find adequate help for dissociative identity disorder. However, joining a support group may help to teach those who have maladaptive daydreaming to cope and make it easier to lower the incidence of its symptoms.

There are several online forums for maladaptive daydreamers, including but not limited to Wild Minds Network and Daydream in Blue.   

Note: I have not vetted either site listed above, so please exercise caution.

Ending Our Time Together

Maladaptive daydreaming is a condition that alters people’s lives by taking them away from their everyday chores and needs. It interrupts lives and work plus isolates its victims, assigning them to loneliness.

Dissociative identity disorder shares a link with maladaptive daydreaming that is only now being explored, and it is hoped this connection might shed more light on the etiology of polyfragmented dissociative identity disorder.

While there are no official treatments for maladaptive daydreaming, there are online support groups, and, with a hard search, one might find a clinician willing to help treat the symptoms.

I am a person with lived experience with both polyfragmented dissociative identity disorder and maladaptive daydreaming. Although the disorder has little effect on my daily life, it often keeps me from falling asleep at night.

I hope that those who have interrupted lives from maladaptive daydreaming will find they are not alone because they are not.

The cost of oblivious daydreaming was always this moment of return, the realignment with what had been before and now seemed a little worse. ~ Ian McEwan

She never felt like she belonged anywhere, except for when she was lying on her bed, pretending to be somewhere else. ~ Rainbow Rowell Eleanor and Park

References

Maladaptive Daydreaming. Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maladaptive_daydreaming

Ross, C. A., Ridgway, J., & George, N. (2020). Maladaptive Daydreaming, Dissociation, and the Dissociative Disorders. Psychiatric Research and Clinical Practice2(2), 53-61.

Somer, E., Somer, L., & Jopp, D. S. (2016). Parallel lives: A phenomenological study of the lived experience of maladaptive daydreaming. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation17(5), 561-576.

One Comment

Add a Comment

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