The average person spends approximately half of their waking hours daydreaming -- and in some cases, it goes much farther than that. In 2002, Eli Somer, an Israeli professor, published a paper on a psychological phenomenon he dubbed "Maladaptive Daydreaming" (MD).
What is Maladaptive Daydreaming?
Maladaptive Daydreaming is a condition in which an individual is addicted to daydreaming or extreme fantasizing; so much so that the habit distracts the afflicted from their real-life, sometimes causing them trouble in carrying out daily tasks.
How do the daydreams work?
The daydreams of MDers are very vivid and complex, often coming with their own highly detailed characters, plots, and settings. The "worlds" these daydreamers create can be based on a lot of things, such as fictional worlds inspired by movies, TV shows, or novels, as well as a world completely of the daydreamers making or their "ideal life". As previously mentioned, these daydreams can last twice as long as the average person's -- extending anywhere from minutes to multiple hours at a time.
It's also important to note that, while these daydreams sometimes are preferable over real life to MDers, they are undoubtedly aware that these fantasies are just that: fantasies. That is what distinguishes MD from more severe dissociation disorders, like schizophrenia. MDers know the difference between their daydreams and reality.
What are the signs of MD?
If you answered "yes" to more than one of these questions, you may be a Maladaptive Daydreamer.
*It's been additionally noted that some daydreamers perform repetitive movements, make facial expressions, or even talk/whisper while daydreaming.
What's the cause of MD?
Due to a lack of research, the exact causes of MD have yet to be pinned down; MD seems to develop as a coping mechanism to other problems rooted in the psyche: i.e. abuse, depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness, etc. In that case, MD is a way for victims to survive psychological trauma, whether mild or severe. It is in and of itself neither good or bad; it is when it becomes an addiction that takes away from the fullness of reality that it becomes a problem.
Why is it important?
The addiction to extreme fantasizing helps prove that it's not the actual substance (drugs, alcohol, technology) people get addicted to, but rather the feelings the substances create that keep people coming back for more. The substance is simply the venue through which addicts get their emotional fix. That's an important realization to accept when deciding how to deal with addicts -- is addiction a crime, or rather a cry for help stemming from emotional, social or environmental need? I'd argue the latter.
Need an outlet?
Do you or someone you care about have MD and are not sure who to talk to or how to talk about it? Check out the "Wild Minds Network" -- an online forum dedicated to blogs and chats written by MDers about their experiences and their ways of moving past Maladaptive Daydreaming.