Can Maladaptive Daydreaming Be Treated?

Maladaptive daydreaming is a controversial condition in which an individual daydreams to an abnormal amount – such that it begins to have negative impacts on their real day to day life. The condition will vary between different people in terms of the symptoms and severity, but commonly it can described as having the following features:

• The individual experiences highly immersive daydreams that seem hyper real – and that at times may be scary or confusing.

• The individual develops emotional attachment to the characters in the daydreams, and to the situations.

• They may express emotion in accordance with their daydreams – for instance laughing, crying, smiling or frowning during their daydream.

• Often there is a described link between the daydreaming and music. Either the individual uses music in order to incite daydreams, or they find themselves unable to stop when they hear music.

• The daydreaming is compulsive and the individual finds it hard to stop – even to the detriment of other activities and behaviors.

• Often there is some form of tick or movement/behavior that the individual engages in unconsciously while daydreaming – such as tapping a pencil, chewing nails or bobbing their leg up and down.

• In some cases, individuals report feeling light headed or experiencing headaches following their daydreams.

• Individuals may exhibit some symptoms that are similar to ADHD and other disorders – such as short attention spans and general detachment from reality.

The definition and diagnosis of maladaptive daydreaming is something that is still debated and it has yet to achieve official status. Thus there is currently relatively little research into the topic and few decisive courses of action recommended by doctors. However there is a huge amount of support for ‘MDers’ as they are known online collectively and many forums.

However that said, it is possible to make some educated guesses as to the causes and possible treatment for maladaptive daydreaming by drawing parallels to other conditions.


The causes of maladaptive daydreaming are potentially numbers. The term was originally coined in order to refer specifically to one form of maladaptive daydreaming – that being daydreams that are triggered by traumatic events in the past such as abuse. However the term is today used more broadly to accept many different causes and forms of daydreaming.

Often daydreaming is used as a form of ‘escapism’ and this suggests that an individual is unhappy with their real lives. For instance if someone creates ‘imaginary friends’ then often this might be as a substitute for real friends and that person might feel lonely. Meanwhile if the individual experiences daydreams of being a superhero and fighting crimes and flying, it may be that they feel ‘powerless’ in their day-to-day lives. Someone who dislikes their job may daydream of punching their boss, or someone who is sexually frustrated may have daydreams with explicit sexual content.

Today’s culture also seems highly likely to trigger daydreams – as we spend much of our lives sedentary and in doors, while reading about, watching and controlling fictional heroes doing extraordinary things.

If you do not get enough REM sleep, then studies have shown the possibility of dreams ‘bleeding’ into your daylight hours. Daydreaming could also be linked to various psychological conditions, such as schizophrenia (visual hallucinations) or psychosis.

Management Techniques

As mentioned, there is no official ‘treatment’ for MD as it is not recognized as a condition officially. However there are some methods you can use yourself to address the symptoms, and the online communities suffering from the conditions have suggested various methods for preventing the tendency from getting in the way of everyday life.

Tell Friends and Family

Alert your friends and family of your problem and ask them to nudge you whenever they notice the patterns of your daydreaming.

Set Alarms

When you are in the house alone, set an alarm on your phone to go off and then press snooze every time it does. This will sound an alarm every five-ten minutes that can hopefully startle you out of a daydream should you be having one.

Combat Tiredness

If you are tired then you are going to be more likely to experience distracting daydreams. Avoid this by making sure you get lots of high quality sleep. Sleep for eight hours a time, make sure to create a conducive environment for sleeping (shutting out all light and noise) and address any issues such as sleep apnea. If you don’t think you are getting enough sleep then attend a sleep clinic where you can have your sleep monitored.

Use Caffeine

If you are still drifting off in meetings and lectures then try using something to keep you more awake such as tea or coffee which will increase your metabolism thereby keeping you more awake and preventing daydreams.

Identify Triggers

You should also try to identify the triggers that may be causing you to daydream. Keep a diary of when you daydream and the other significant events leading up to it. Perhaps browsing the web causes it, or perhaps music. Once you identify the trigger you can then be sure to guard against it more at these times, or avoid that stimulus altogether. Even better is to identify the psychological triggers that lead to daydreaming as in cognitive behavioral therapy. Learn to identify when you are starting to slip into daydream and then identify techniques to combat this.

Address Underlying Issues

If you are daydreaming as a form of escapism or to create imaginary friends, or as catharsis for sexual frustration, then the daydreaming is really just a symptom of a more complex problem. Address the underlying cause of your daydream and try to make your life happier and fuller to prevent the ‘need’ for daydreaming.

Daydreams are not always maladaptive, and in fact they serve a great way for us to make plans and visualize the futures we want. Make an effort to take the themes of your daydreams – and to make them a reality.


Therapy can help you to identify these underlying causes, and can teach you to have better control over your thoughts. ‘Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’ is one particularly good form of therapy that will help you to control and recognize your thought patterns better.


In rare cases medication might be necessary such as anti-psychotics or antidepressants might help to combat the symptoms (in conjunction with therapy). Make sure though that you always consult a doctor and do not consider self medicating which can have numerous negative side effects.


  1. I have this condition, and it was causing for me dysfunction in study and work, until I discovered I have BAD, it was much decreased with mood stabilizers and antipsychotics.

  2. What if you have this problem and you know it's not ok but you want to live it in some imaginary machine. Does anything like that exist?

  3. I have daydreamed excessively since 1987. It has affected a lot in my life. I daydream about everything. The triggers are so many. If someone annoys me I daydream for hours about beating them up; If I meet a nice Lady I daydream about being with her; If I see a great Movie I daydream about making the highest grossing movie ever etc. This article has helped me to realize that I am not alone. Thank you.

  4. Excellent article which explains this condition in lay terms and immensely helps understand it well. Practical tips/hints for treatment and very sensible suggestions. Thanks for this!

  5. This article helped me a lot!!

  6. I am very shocked and amazed that this disorder I have actually have a name to it. I thought I was crazy and really needed help, but after reading so many peoples responses; I now see that I am not alone. I wonder if this is genetically passed on through generations because my mother has it too, which made me more confused about it. Wow I am only 17 years old and I am really happy that I am not alone.

  7. I'm also suffering in this kind of condition and I feel so frustrated. I'm always not aware that I'm wasting my whole day in daydreaming until I noticed that I'm becoming irresponsible and lazy. Anyway, thank you very much for a very helpful tips and information. I hope I'll become better = )

  8. After years of wondering what the hell was wrong with me, didn't have the courage to ask because I thought I was a freak. Jeez, this article is a relief.

  9. It was a while back I realized I had this. My entire life I had been daydreaming without noticing!! I only started to notice something was off once I started doing a specific thing when I daydreamed which was pacing. But then the pacing was turns into running and really hurts my chest, because the tissue around my ribs inflames easily, pressing against my lungs. But I can't stop doing it. I'm not old enough to move out and with my parents having their new baby I can't find any time to daydream. I know this should be a good thing but it's just making me more frustrated than relieved. I'm not going to just start running back and forth through the house while they're here, I'll look crazy. And I've told them I think I have maladaptive daydreaming, but they're deaf and tend to forget a lot of things I try to talk to them about. I feel like I'm in too deep. Even when my chest hurts, and I'm out of breath, and sweat is literally dripping down my forehead, I just can't stop. I don't want to either, that's what scares me.

  10. This describes so many of the issues I have been facing for years. What if I don't want to get better? I know it is affecting my daily life but it brings me untold amounts of joy to constantly daydream. I know I have an issue, but I am scared to lose this.

  11. This disorder is all too real for me. Two years ago I went through my worst phase with it. I cut myself off from family and friend, staying in bed all day, alternating between looking at outfits and celebrities in magazines and daydreaming elaborate scenarios for my idealised personalities.

    I literally had to force myself out of bed to do mundane things like washing and cleaning my apartment. On several occasions I would get up with a clear purpose of doing something productive for the day, but feel too depressed to follow through. I would wake up and shower, only to get back into my robe and crawl into bed.

    Thanks for bringing attention to this disorder.


  12. Really informative and not too much to take in, I'm surprised I read it all before slipping into another process.

  13. Excellent article! For almost my entire life I felt like a freak, it has helped so much to know that there other people with the same condition!

  14. This was very helpful to me. I have suffered with this condition for probably 30+ years. I now finally know what to explain to my Dr. I am afraid to tell any family or friends though, I don't want to be rejected or judged by them. It is however, comforting to put a name to it and know I am not alone.

  15. I have just realised I have this condition, it's such a comfort knowing I am not alone and not completely nuts, I was beginning to worry about myself. Not sure how I will explain this to those close to me, but I will try. Thank you so much XX

  16. Thank you! This page helped me understand things I was unsure of, and gave me the information nobody and nothing could give me. Thank you.

  17. There is a website called dedicated to people with MD, the website is to basically post/write about your daydreams instead of letting all your imagination go to waste, try it!

  18. oh no… I wish I didn't have this problem… I'm 17 and I have to study hard to go to university but MD waste my time… I'm full of stress, I need help…

  19. Hello, I'm a 17 year old who believes that I suffer from maladaptive daydreaming. Since I have been in middle school I have spent hours daydreaming and during the summer I have spent days. I usually pace back and forth while daydreaming sometimes I run. This has honestly impacted my life for the worst. I really need support I'm going to be a senior this school year and I'm off to college and I don't want this to impact the road of my life. It feels good to know that I'm not alone.

  20. Informative, thank you!

  21. There is a new 12-step group called Escapism and Fantasy Addicts Anonymous that might be a good resource for maladaptive daydreamers.

  22. I do not think there is a treatment for maladaptive dreamers. None of these here help, unless you are a MDer for a short time. If you are one less than a year, I think you could find the escape. I, MDer for around 5 years, haven't found anything that would help me. It started so innocently and it turned into something that makes me happy yet kills me inside.

    The thing about escapism is very very true – in last couple of years, my imaginary world has helped me through a lot and if I didn't create it those years ago, I do not know if I could be writing this comment. I became so unhappy 2 years ago and I fell in depression. I do not have just one world that kept me happy inside, there more. Though there is that one main world that I live in every day.

    Well, back to the treatment part. Don't know how about other MDers, but I think I will get rid of it partly when I become happy again. By happy I mean very very happy. Maybe when I get married or have children. Maybe have the job of my dreams that distracts me a lot to the point there is no time to do that (which would be hell of a magical job that I am so desperate for).

    If I ever told my parents, they'd think I am a psychopath and they'd tell me to stop talking non sense. If I told my friends – well I did, but they still have no idea. As much as I help them with their personal things, they never help me back. They can listen, but when I told them, they no longer cared or they said "wow that's cool". It's became kind of a drug to me. Sorry if my English isn't that good, I am not a native speaker, but I tried! 😀

  23. I think I daydream a good 30-40% of my day daily. Which doesn't sound like a lot but kind of is. I've been diagnosed with OCD since 11 and I do tic and zone out as a trigger. Triggers could be music, tv, comics, emotions, certain thoughts, like crushes, stress, etc. I think depression has something to do with it as well. I think that Maladaptive Daydreaming could be more of a symptom than a problem or could start off as a coping mechanism that stemmed from a problem and then turned into its own thing. I have been seen acting out my daydreams from time to time and I guess that can make me seem psychotic. I don't know, it's just funnier living in my mind than in real life.

  24. It was helpful…

  25. Liked it. Good information to know!

  26. I have had this condition ever since I could remember. I was very young. My family knows about this because I used to pace around the table every time I watched TV. When they asked what I was doing I said, "thinking." They didn't do anything about it because they thought it was normal. Now I'm 16 and I just discovered that it the thing has a name! But the problem is that I don't really want to let go…

  27. Wow, this whole article describes what I've just though was normal -_- to make this worse I have Non 24hr Circadian Rythm disorder which means living a normal life with a 9-5 job tends to leave me without that high-quality sleep most of the time (until my sleep cycle realigns, then I'm ok for a few days). Who would I go to see if I wanted to get checked out for this?

  28. I'm sixteen and I think I have this disorder. I'm hard of hearing and I was also just diagnosed with Asperger syndrome so I'm not too sure what's going on inside my head. I remember when I first started daydreaming when I was around 2 about kids shows like Dragon Tails while I was waiting to fall asleep and just making complex story lines, then when I was around 5 I just started daydreaming while I was doing everyday activities like walking to school or painting, and just started daydreaming about anything and everything. Since then I have learned to function at my job and school while daydreaming excessively and tried numerous times to stop. I find it very relieving to know that I am not alone and there is research being conducted on this.

  29. This fits me 100%. Thank you for writing this article. The only question I personally need to face now is, "Do I really want to leave?"

    Also, should I tell one of my closest friends about it? My family knows about it, and my teachers apparently do too, because of mother. I don't want the whole world knowing how weird I am, but should I trust one of my closest friends?

  30. I believe that I suffer from maladaptive daydreaming. My mother was an addict, and was sent away to rehab. My dad was always working, and I was at daycare and felt like I never had a lot of attention. I grew comfortable being by myself. I used dolls and paced around the room, creating stories in my head. I'm now 13 and don't use dolls anymore. Instead I use pictures to help create stories, along with music. I want to get rid of it, but I also don't want to. I remember doing it one time in front of my family at Christmas, and being laughed at by them. I knew it wasn't normal then. I never knew that there were others like me, and it's so reliving to find out that. I'm trying to get help. Wish me luck.

  31. I honestly had no idea that other people struggled with this same problem. I've been dealing with this even since I was in middle school and I didn't even notice I was doing it until I read this article.

  32. I am 40 now & I think it started at the age of 14-15 for me. I do know it’s NOT real & is imaginary, so I am NOT crazy, delusional, psychotic or schizophrenic. But some of the things I do sure look crazy.

    1. I will talk out aloud. I will imagine the situation or person (imaginary) to be sitting in front of me. I will talk out aloud to that person in a high voice. That person will also talk back to me in a loud voice (basically it’s just me talking back to myself, but as the other person).

    2. I will gesture. Pace the room. Body language, everything. I will really get into it.

    Usually my triggers are NEGATIVE. Like someone insults me or annoys me & I don't do anything about it. Later on I will daydream about that situation, and enact the whole thing out, with loud voice, pacing, gestures, body language. But this time I will have the upper hand. I will also imagine an audience in front of whom all this happens.

    Everything feels, looks & sounds hyper real to me, but I KNOW it’s not real, so it’s not delusions or hallucinations or voices in my head. I clearly know the difference between reality & the fantasy.

  33. Since grade school until now at 36, I am still experiencing this excessive daydreaming. I thought I'm alone with this battle until I tried to search for this disorder yesterday. I'm so relieved there are a lot there who can share their experiences on how to combat this sickness. I sweat excessively, my hands and lips shiver but I couldn't stop daydreaming even if I know it's the cause. I am anti-social. I have few friends and I don't like people staring at me. Today, I managed to stop daydreaming every time it's about to start. I don't know if it would work for you but surely it does have an effect to me for a day. I am currently reading the book THE POWER of NOW. It's like a meditation to stop yourself from thinking the past and future, and only lets you focus on the present. I am planning to read meditation books afterwards. I hope it works for you too.

  34. I can't believe there are other people like this and it has a name! I'm 31 and have done this since been very little. My father was very abusive and I did it as a way to escape my life. I also have mental health disorders. I have such a very vivid imagination and the character of myself that I have created in my daydreams has been perfected over my whole life. I'm incredibly attached to her and I could never stop my daydreams. She is the total opposite to me in every way, her lifestyle too. These last 5 or so years though I find myself immensely unsatisfied with my real life, because of this fantasy life I have dreamt of for 25 years. I think it's because I know now I am older it is too late to ever achieve a life as wonderful as my daydream life. I don't know how to get over this feeling. It's making me very apathetic about life, and suicidal but in a very apathetic sense not in an overly emotional way. Does anyone else have this issue? I can't get over this being a "thing". I've felt so embarrassed about this and have never disclosed this even in therapy. This is blowing my mind. If anyone feels the same as me and would like to have a conversation about this let me know on here and I will set up an email address and post it. I'm really struggling with this feeling I'm having and really really need to change this as I have children and I just don't want to be here anymore.

  35. A good friend of mine has this condition, but she doesn't want it to stop… she says she wants to live in a daydream world instead of reality. Her life isn't actually that bad, and she is a very confident person… it makes me wonder if she was faking the whole thing for attention from me and her divorced parents. That could be why she forbid me to tell anyone… I don't know if I'm mad at her or just disappointed.

  36. This article helps me a lot and it is very relieving that I am not only one who has this kind of condition. I am now seventeen and I have this kind of condition since I was young and I only noticed it now when my guardian noticed me that I'm daydreaming. Maybe she noticed me because she has knowledge of psychology. I thought that I'm crazy but then when I read this article, it helps me a lot. I don't know where this condition came from because I think my mother and my sister have this kind of condition and maybe I have this condition because I'm abused verbally from my previous guardian when I was young because I am a working student. I don't know how to tell my family and friends about it I want this out of my life. I'm sorry if I have a wrong grammar.

  37. I'm almost 17 and glad I found this now. I have noticed many triggers and never knew what it was. I was starting to think that I was crazy and started telling myself that I should ignore it all. My grades have been going down, year by year because of my daydreaming. It seems as if the more stressed I get, the more daydreaming I do. It also increases if I'm alone or in a quiet place. I told my friend about it and had her help me do some research on it and she even noticed something she does. We found a little quiz also and took it and got the highest score. It gave us some links to groups of people who also have the disorder. We can now try to knock each other out of them if we are starting to have one.

  38. The irony of this article is that I was already starting to create a story as I like to call it while reading it.

  39. When was this article electronically published?

  40. I am 13 years old. I had this condition ever since I was little kid.

  41. This really explains a lot… I was sexually, physically, and emotionally abuse as a child. I started having these day dreams since childhood. I would describe myself as more of an introvert but for the most part I am a normal adult. But when I am by myself, I find myself very restless like bouncing my leg, tapping pens, and pacing back and forth. I always knew that my childhood had maybe caused me to constantly daydream and I am practically an insomniac. I feel relieve, I kept thinking maybe I had signs of Multiple Identity disorder or schizophrenia but I know the daydreams are not real and I know who I am. It's just when I feel stressed, Lonely, listen to music, read a good book… I just daydream. It doesn't distract me from work or school, maybe more socially than anything. I learned to use an white noise app to help get more sleep and I have been encouraging myself to hang out more with friends and choose a career that involved communication with staff and patients. It does not really stop and I feel like due to my childhood, it was just something that developed to help me cope. I believe it's just a coping method. It's a relieve to give it a name, I literally thought I was going crazy and did not know how to approach it. It scared me but I feel less worried about the situation and maybe feel more comfortable bring up to family or even my Dr. if I felt that it was becoming a serious problem. I know it use to worry my mom seeing her child talk, laughing, smiling to herself. I feel more at ease as I can differentiate between daydreaming and reality.

  42. I've now read many articles about this and I never knew it was a thing, day dreaming was like a escape from reality. In my dreams I've built this whole life of what I want and I've had past relationships with people who I've never met in real life! My dreams aren't all perfect so I feel like that has emotionally scarred me, I never realized how badly this affected me. I've been daydreaming for around 3 years, which may not be long compared to other people with this disorder but it has become a daily thing. I have major social anxiety so whenever I'm forced to go out in public I imagine a character from my dream is there. Or I daydream. I can't listen to music without zoning out and dreaming. I honestly thought I was crazy but seeing how many other people suffer with this makes me feel a lot better. Thank you, this article was wonderful.

  43. What do you do when you have had this problem since you were 5 years old and just noticed how bad and how long you have had it.

  44. I have excessive maladaptive day dreaming. It is very hard to be in the world. I am almost totally in the dream world like when driving, working, cooking, bathing whenever wherever. I have severe headaches, excessive irritation, and untimely anger. Attention problems. Memory problems. It is hard to sleep. It is impossible to avoid dreaming. I have high suicidal tendencies. I have approached psychologists two times and got medicated but there is no improvement. They even conducted a lot of tests on my head. Man it is hell. Can anyone help me with this? Would anybody help me by giving me tips to avoid it.

  45. Very good article. I would also like to add the point that there may be extensive movements for some maladaptive daydreamers. E.g. If I daydream like I am dancing, I may literally dance in the real world. Daydreamers try to isolate themselves as much as possible. When they come out of their extensive daydreams, they are aware (painfully aware) of the reality.

  46. Excellent article for MD's…

  47. Thank you.

  48. I’m 15 years old and I have been daydreaming for as long as I have been alive, but I have almost full control over my daydreams. I’m not sure if it has any correlation, but I am also able to control my dreams during the night and have even continued dreams from previous nights or during the day. Maybe MD and lucid dreaming could be related?

  49. I think I may have this, and I do this at school and I sometimes can't pay attention for more than like 5-10 minutes without subconsciously drifting off and doing this. I also have trouble getting out of bed in the morning because of it.

  50. I feel I have it. It's been on continuation since I was 11 and I can't seem to stop. It hasn't affected me harshly until I went to college. The more course work I had to more I wanted to daydream instead. It sucks. Most of my triggers are music, tv, movies. Daydreaming is very relaxing to me but I can do it all day long sometimes and I have a lot of work to do.

  51. I'm not alone! Thanks for this article.

  52. Wow… I figured out after reading several articles on Maladaptive Daydreaming that I started daydreaming after I was sexually harassed by my adopted cousin when I was seven. I now daydream whenever I can. It's not good. I know it's bad but I can't leave my dreams. They comfort and smooth me. They're what make me, me. I can't stop it, I've tried. I'll find myself drifting off into one. The only triggers I can think of are music and sleep. Music is my entire life though. I can't stop listening to music. And it's not like I can stop sleeping. I had depression very badly and recently I've been thinking its back, so I'll have to address this with my therapist this week. I'm scared though. My parents think I'm always begging for attention, because I want to be poplar and crap, but I don't. I just want friends and to be happy. I want their approval and praise. They're part of my depression and maladaptive daydreaming. I don't know what to do.

  53. I had no idea this was a real thing! Even as I read the article the first time and the comments below I was letting them turn into stories in my head. Before finding the name for this, I thought I was just weird (well let's be honest, I prolly am…) But now I know I'm not alone! I did lose a lot of sleep at night, and end up daydreaming during school. It had gotten bad. I'm almost 18, and this was making my life really hard to concentrate on. I still try to avoid it during the day, but it is helped me to embrace it at night. During the day I try to keep myself busy with going out with friends, even if all we do is go sit somewhere and talk. I can normally keep myself too busy to daydream. As for at night and in the mornings I like to let it happen, but keep it in check. If I daydream about something good before I sleep, I end up sleeping better, and I don't let the dream get too complicated before then. I wake up early in the morning. Earlier than everyone else, and while I eat breakfast, I let the stories out again. I've found that this helps me better concentrate on most of my day. It doesn't banish the rest if the daydreams out of my life, but devoting a little time to them every day keeps them at bay the majority of the time. Hope I could help someone else out there 🙂

  54. I've suffered from and eating disorder and I've been pretty sad for majority of my life. I started maladaptive daydreaming since I was 9. I'm 21 now and never thought this was a bad thing, it's been a really good coping skill for me.

  55. I thought I was alone with this, until I read this.

    I can identify to this very strongly, and have been suffering with MD since I was 6 years old.

    It makes a lot of sense.

  56. I am relieved cause I thought I was the only one like this. It has really affected my life so much. I get really frustrated sometimes and can't even tell my family cause am embarrassed and they will probably think am a freak or something. Thanks a lot.

  57. I recently came across this term and I couldn't believe how accurately it describes what I do. I thought I was the only one and I've never told anyone about what I do or how much this has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I really thought I was crazy so I kept it very hidden. I can't imagine telling anyone in my life.

  58. Thank you for this!

  59. I'm not alone, thankfully. I've had problems with this, but it makes me so happy. It was a way for me to escape rejection from everyone around me because that's kind of how my entire childhood went, so I resorted to imaginary friends and situations. I'd not just pace around, I'd act it. I'd voice it. I do it everywhere, that my parents are genuinely concerned about it. Apparently it's strange.

    But this makes me so happy, so what if I don't want to let go?

  60. @ Comment #35 (Posted by Lea)

    I hope you come back to read comments at some point because I swear what you wrote could have been written by me (almost word for word) about my experiences with maladaptive daydreaming. I don't have the children, but

  61. I think I have this and the information here is extremely helpful.

  62. I am glad to know that at least has some name… I always escapes from stress and anxiety this is the only to do so… I know this is not a right way so I surely stop this… well I know it needs time but I really want to be happy in my real life!

  63. Good explanation!

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