Our Blog

maladaptive daydreaming

Maladaptive Daydreaming

While it’s only human to let your mind wander every now and then, daydreaming becomes maladaptive when you use it as an unhealthy coping mechanism. If you frequently lose yourself in vivid daydreams and can’t control when and how often you do it, it could be a symptom of a mental health disorder or result from a difference in brain function.

How Common Is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Though experts have not confirmed a specific cause of maladaptive daydreaming, preliminary research suggests it might arise from variations in the brain regions that control executive functions like decision-making, planning and motivation.

Maladaptive daydreaming tends to overlap with conditions like these:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Some forms of depression
  • OCD
  • Dissociative disorders

Maladaptive Daydreaming vs. Typical Daydreams

While many people indulge in brief fantasies about things like going on a vacation, winning the lottery or getting a new job, maladaptive daydreams are much more intense and elaborate. They can last hours at a time and be complex enough to have recurring plotlines and characters.

People who revel in these types of daydreams use them as an escape hatch from the real world. This disconnect is similar to dissociation, which is a common coping mechanism for people with severe anxiety, clinical depression or a history of abuse or trauma.  

Maladaptive daydreamers may prefer getting lost in their thoughts over spending time with others, which can cause relationship problems. The habit might also interfere with other areas of your life, such as work or school. The urge to fall into a rich, multilayered fantasy can be strong enough that you can’t make yourself stop, even if you want to.

Is There a Treatment for Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Though there is no standard treatment for this condition, it often responds well to evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy. In talking about your compulsive daydreaming with a trained therapist, you can address the root causes of what you do and why you feel such powerful urges to keep doing it.

When your maladaptive daydreams are a symptom of a condition like ADHD or OCD, seeking help for those disorders can improve your quality of life. Your health provider can recommend a combination of medication, therapy and specific lifestyle changes that are most likely to benefit you, based on your unique health history, conditions and circumstances.

Once you have an effective treatment plan, it’s crucial to stick to it. That includes:

  • Regularly visiting your doctor or therapist on a recommended schedule and not skipping appointments.
  • Taking any prescription medications according to the provided directions.
  • Setting realistic, specific and achievable goals.
  • Avoiding self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
  • Keeping a positive attitude in the face of any challenges you encounter.

Discover Freedom and Hope at Vista Taos

If you routinely escape into long, complex daydreams, it’s time to address the underlying mental health disorders that are at the heart of your behavior. When you enter clinical treatment at Vista Taos, we will evaluate all facets of your well-being and develop a customized plan for your recovery. Our master’s-level therapists will work with you to recognize and change unhealthy coping mechanisms and equip you with new tools and strategies for living a fulfilling, substance-free life.

Contact us when you are ready to learn more about recovering in New Mexico and the holistic amenities we provide.

Share this post