By Daisy Wigg, second year English and History.
The Croft / everyone is guilty of daydreaming from time to time, but what happens when this gets out of hand? Daisy Wigg explores the concept of maladaptive daydreaming and its potentially detrimental consequences.
Everyone has fantasies. Everyone daydreams, of a better life, an ideal world or an alternate one. But what happens when we get lost in these idealisations?
Maladaptive daydreaming, or daydreaming in excess, is an example of this. Maladaptive daydreamers (MDers) have extreme and vivid fantasies that allow them to dissociate from reality whilst being provided with comfort and pleasure. Whilst they are aware of the fantasy element of their dreams, living in this world is often seen as a preference to their current existence and can consume hours of the day.
Somer, a psychologist who conducted some of the first studies into this behaviour, argues that it should be considered an addiction. After conducting research and multiple case studies into this form of daydreaming, he states that, due its potential for harm, it should be viewed as a psychological disorder.
Not only does the time spent within these fantasies lead to personal and social neglect, but it often occurs in tandem with excessive internet use and watching porn. Somer highlights how this should not be seen simply as personal withdrawal but as active dissociation.
A want to escape is not an uncommon one.
The stresses of life and the uncertainty it brings can often lead the mind to wander, and no person can be blamed for that. Dreaming of a better self or lifestyle can bring positives, motivation, and methods to achieve goals.
But when these dreams are chosen above reality, a method of coping can become an addiction.
In a case study conducted by the Research Centre for Trauma and Dissociation, one sufferer of MD, Peter, describes using it as a distraction from his isolated reality, triggered by childhood bullying and pictures on the internet. Whilst his creation of alternate realities gave temporary respite, he also notes the regret of missed intimacies and describes himself as lacking a sense of maturity. The centre’s work with Peter did not seek to completely remove the use of daydreaming but looked to adapt it into an effective coping mechanism rather than a compulsion.
Maladaptive daydreaming is often experienced alongside other psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression and ADHD. Therefore, looking at daydreaming as a creative coping mechanism does have its benefits.
Shame and a lack of social recognition have led many suffering from MD to not reach out for help; held back by the stigma and sometimes scoffing that comes with explaining their reality. To move past this, further research has been conducted into the addictive and detrimental elements of the disorder. There has also been increased work put into effective treatments and greater accessibility to such schemes.
Having a creative outlet and a place to escape to is important, as we all need rest and a mental respite.
However maladaptive daydreaming has been shown to move beyond a coping mechanism to an addiction, meaning whilst we can draw positives from its inventive nature, caution must be taken when using it as a form of escapism.
Featured image: Daniel Newell-Price
Remember to check in with yourself and your coping mechanisms! Are these still beneficial for you?