Are You a Maladaptive Daydreamer? This Test May Tell You

For most of us, daydreaming is a harmless diversion from everyday life. But what if you spend so much time in your imaginary world that your reality pays the price?

As outlandish as it might sound, the above scenario is far from fiction. In fact, for thousands of people, maladaptive daydreaming (MD), or compulsive fantasizing, is an undeniable reality. Many of us may not even be aware we have this condition until it creates major problems in our lives.

Why Should I Find Out If I Have Maladaptive Daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming is harmful when left unchecked. As people with MD spend more time absorbed in their fantasies, they ignore the demands of reality.

Struggling just to finish everyday tasks, many of them find it difficult to maintain a good performance at work or school. Sometimes they neglect their physical needs, forgetting to eat or going to bed late.

What’s worse, the daydreams keep people from spending time with their family and friends. When loneliness and depression sets in, maladaptive daydreamers delve even deeper into their fantasy worlds, creating a vicious cycle.

For all these reasons, it’s essential to know for sure whether or not you have MD to save yourself trouble down the road.

What Does the Science Tell Us?

Unfortunately, we have limited clinical research on maladaptive daydreaming. However, in one study, researchers developed a tool for measuring abnormal daydreaming – the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS). They applied this instrument to 447 English-speaking individuals from 45 different countries, most of whom self-identified as maladaptive daydreamers (MDers).1

Interestingly, the researchers found that the MDS could accurately distinguish between MDers and non-MDers.

Because of its reliable track record, the MDS may be used in future studies on maladaptive daydreaming. This will help clinicians better understand MD and create effective forms of treatment.

The only problem is, the MDS scale isn’t recommended for use in diagnosing MD – at least for now. 1

How Can Maladaptive Daydreaming Be Diagnosed?

We still lack important information about maladaptive daydreaming. What’s more, MD is not recognized as a mental disorder. Both of these factors mean that there is no offical criteria we can use to diagnose the condition. This makes finding out whether or not you’re a maladaptive daydreamer much more complicated.

That being said, there are many people who self-identify as maladaptive daydreamers and demonstrate similar characteristics. These signs can help you find the answers you’re looking for.

Do These Statements Describe You?

In the quiz below are twelve statements that describe the most common traits of maladaptive daydreaming. Determine which ones apply to you. You may not fit every the trait, but the more statements you find to be true, the more likely you have MD.

Note: This test shouldn’t be used a diagnostic tool. It is meant only to be a point of reference.

  1. I have lost hours or days at a time to fantasizing, sometimes without even realizing it.
  2. The imaginary worlds, characters, and plots from my fantasies are so elaborate that they would probably make good novels.
  3. Sometimes I can’t watch movies, read books, or listen to music without slipping into a daydream.
  4. My fantasies cause me to skip meals, lose sleep, or neglect other basic needs.
  5. I act out my daydreams through talking, singing, dancing, etc.
  6. I make facial expressions when I fantasize.
  7. I engage in repetitive movements (rocking, pacing, etc.) during an episode.
  8. My fantasies make it difficult to focus on my job or schoolwork.
  9. I fail to complete tasks or miss important deadlines because I can’t stop daydreaming.
  10. I am emotionally invested in my imaginary characters and storylines.
  11. I lose time with friends or family to my daydreaming.
  12. I often feel like I have one foot in one the real world and one in the imaginary world (yet I have no difficulty distinguishing between the two).

If you answered yes to more than half the questions, especially questions 4, 8,9, and 11, there’s a good chance you have MD.

If you’re still uncertain, take into account the most important component of MD: is your fantasizing causing you distress?

Consider these questions: do you feel bad about how much time you daydream? Is your habit causing any health problems? Are you missing time with your loved ones because you can’t pull away from your fantasies? These are all signs that you may have a problem.

Where Do I Go From Here?

If you suspect that you have maladaptive daydreaming, you may want to discuss it with a professional. However, since most doctors don’t know about MD, make sure you can fully articulate the challenges you are facing.

Additionally, you can visit online maladaptive daydreaming forums where you can interact with others just like you.

Are you a maladaptive daydreamer? Which of the above traits fit you?


[1] Somer, Eli, Jonathan Lehrfeld, Jayne Bigelsen, and Daniela S. Jopp. “Development and Validation of the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS).” Consciousness and Cognition 39 (2016): 77-91. Web. 25 June 2016.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. Chenell Barnes says:

    Love your MD site. Simple, clear, concise and informative.


    1. Hi, there!

      Thank you for the compliment. It means a lot to me to know that you find it helpful – that’s the main goal of this website. Thanks for reading!


  2. Marla says:

    Just found an article on CNN, and looked this up. Holy crap. I thought I just had an overactive imagination and this daydreaming was part of being a novelist! My intense daydreams do make it into stories. I had no idea other people do this.


    1. I think that there are a lot of creative people out there who have MD and don’t even realize it – I know that’s how it started for me. And I definitely agree that the silver lining in all of this is that our daydreams can make for some amazing stories. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  3. TFMBKN says:

    OhMyGod! I was going through my Snapchat feed and found an article on MD. I didn’t know something like this even had a name. And I used to believe all those 12 signs were just a part of who I am… that there was nothing abnormal about them. Reading your article now, I’ve realised I need to stop zoning out. Thank you so much for the information!


    1. You’re very welcome. MD can be tricky to navigate sometimes, but I’m happy this helps you. Thanks for your comment!


  4. Alexis says:

    For as long as I can remember I have fantasized entire worlds that I’d live in (some from books, movies, shows, video games) and only about 10 years ago did it hit me that, thats freaking weird. I shouldn’t be off in my head almost 24/7 that thats not normal. Thought I was a freak. Only just today did I even think about other people doing this and looked into it, and thank god I did!! I busted out bawling; I now know I’m not alone! Thank you for writing this!!!


    1. Oh, I definitely know the feeling. It’s such a relief to learn that others have the same experience. Thanks for sharing!


  5. BrokenAngel says:

    17 years.. isn’t it a huge period to waste in Daydreaming.. i started daydreaming when i was in school ( to young to figure out what i was opting for). i could not even realize,i was getting lost in my completely different world… i escaped from all the unwanted real life situation n started living in head. i barely paid attention in my classes. slowly my grades started degrading. n finally i ended with the worst grade in high school.. it totally screwed up my life. lost my confidence. couldn’t pursue the career i wanted to. finally i settled up for a trifle and living below average life. m totally lost. by the time i came to know the reality it was too late… i feel like m trapped… trapped in my own thoughts.. a part of me still want to be saved, and a part knows there’s no way out…


    1. It’s so hard to cope with how much damage MD can do in our lives – that’s why it’s sad that a lot of people think it isn’t a big deal or that it’s harmless just because it’s “daydreaming”. But when it completely sabotages everything you want to do in life, how can it be harmless? On the bright side, I do think it’s possible to find a way out of it, even if we’ve been dealing with it for a lifetime. Thanks for your sharing your experience – I hope things get better for you!


  6. Momkris says:

    My md came from loneliness. Living on military bases and moving every three years. Making friends as a little black girl was extremely difficult. I relied on my daydreams just to get through the day. The immense loneliness that I still go through makes me so sad. I have friends but boyfriend’s are few and far between.


    1. Oh, yes, early experiences like that can really set up a child to have a lifelong struggle with MD. I can definitely relate to growing up struggling to make friends and using daydreaming to cope. But I’ve noticed that loneliness is a common theme for a lot of us MDers. Thanks for touching on this, though. I think it really hones in on why for so many people, MD is so easy to fall into and why it’s so difficult to overcome.


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