Everyone gets distracted by daydreaming once in a while. But some people may wonder if their fantasizing is out of control. They might eventually ask themselves, “Do I have maladaptive daydreaming?”
If you’re asking yourself this question, there’s no need to fret. This site has plenty of information about maladaptive daydreaming to help you out. In fact, if you want to know if you have the symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming (MD), you can take a look at this simple test.
That being said, it’s all too easy to mistake maladaptive daydreaming with normal, healthy fantasizing, especially when there’s so much confusion around the term.
For that reason, I thought I would expand a little more on what the symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming look like. Although it’s not meant to be taken too seriously, it’s a good picture of what maladaptive daydreamers go through on a daily basis. Plus, it’s a great way to know for sure whether your daydreaming habit is a bit off kilter.
So without further ado, here are 25 signs that you might have maladaptive daydreaming.
1. Your daydreaming switch is always on.
For most people, daydreaming is something they can easily turn on or off. But maladaptive daydreamers don’t find it easy to pry themselves away from their fantasies. Sometimes their daydreams will interrupt their thoughts even when they need to focus on something else.
2. You zone out during conversations.
Even when they want to listen, people with maladaptive daydreaming don’t find it easy keep up with conversations. They’re not the best at being present in the moment, simply because they’re so used to living in their heads. They don’t always realize that they weren’t listening until someone asks for a response. They might even have to ask other people to repeat themselves.
3. It’s a big deal if someone interrupts you when you’re daydreaming.
Imagine you’re watching a really good movie that you’ve been dying to see. As the tension and drama unfolds, you become fully absorbed into the story. But just as the climax nears, a friend barges into the room and wants to start a conversation. Naturally, you wouldn’t be too happy. But that’s exactly what it feels like when a maladaptive daydreamer is interrupted during their daydream time.
4. You want to find out how to control your daydreaming.
While it’s fun to make up storylines in your mind, maladaptive daydreaming can be so addictive that it affects other areas of your life. And then, it’s suddenly not as fun anymore. It’s hard to completely enjoy daydreaming when you know it’s stopping you from living your life. That’s why many maladaptive daydreamers look for a way to make their fantasizing more manageable.
5. You never struggle to entertain yourself when you’re bored.
When you’re a compulsive daydreamer, you don’t have to look for entertainment – you just create it. You have enough content from your fantasies to keep you busy for hours at a time. Many times, you might even be happy that you don’t have anything to do, because it leaves more time to daydream.
6. You sometimes catch yourself acting out a daydream.
Many people with MD need some type of physical movement to immerse themselves in a daydream. While some might simply pace or rock back and forth, others may get even more creative. There are plenty of stories of people acting out a dream scenario, whether through singing, dancing, or just talking out loud.
7. You’ve had to explain why you randomly make funny faces.
When maladaptive daydreamers start fantasizing, they really get involved. Without even realizing it, they start laughing at a comment one of their characters made or begin crying when another character’s relationship goes sour. Unfortunately this seems to happen at the most inconvenient moments – namely, when someone is walking past them.
8. The question, “What are you thinking about?” takes forever to answer.
If you spend any significant amount of time daydreaming, people will notice. It’s only a matter of time before someone asked the dreaded question no maladaptive daydreamer wants to hear. Even if answering didn’t require sharing personal details, there’s no way to sum up a soap-opera-length storyline into just a few words.
9. In a group setting, you don’t mind when people ignore you.
While most people find it uncomfortable to be the wallflower, maladaptive daydreamers could care less. It’s much harder for them to daydream when other people demand their attention. This is why they usually seek solitude. That way, there’s no pressure to put on a social performance. They can stare off into space without worrying about what anyone will think.
10. It takes a full hour to watch a 10-minute video.
Even when you’re watching something interesting, you just can’t help yourself from pausing the video every thirty seconds to slip off into a daydream. It’s not always a big deal, since you do go back to the video – eventually.
11. You have issues keeping track of time.
Legend has it that maladaptive daydreaming has impressive time-bending properties. It’s a lot like stepping into the faerie realm – you spend an hour there and when you come back to the ordinary world, 100 years have passed. All right, not that quite dramatic, but it always ends up feeling like the clock is lying to you. You know you were only daydreaming for ten minutes, so why is it saying that an hour has passed? Some days it just smells of a conspiracy.
12. Procrastination is your favorite word.
If you always do things ahead of time or always closely follow your schedule, daydreaming probably isn’t an issue for you. Maladaptive daydreamers, on the other hand, love to drag their feet when it comes to getting anything done. They’ll tell themselves, “Just 10 more minutes,” but then the time warp I mentioned earlier hits them.
13. When reading, you always lose your place.
With MD, there’s always a distraction pulling you away from the story, so reading in peace is a challenge. You might even have to reread the same line multiple times.
14. You consider your daydreaming to be the highlight of your day.
When you have maladaptive daydreaming, you live every moment in anticipation of your next daydreaming session. Since the real world seems rather boring, you practically celebrate any time you can be alone to daydream. Unfortunately, this also means we have to say goodbye to having any outside interests.
15. Your daydreaming comes with safety risks.
Believe it or not, maladaptive daydreaming can be a bit dangerous. At home, there’s the chance that you burn the house down because you forgot you put something in the oven. Outside, you might step out into a busy road, or end up in a car accident.
16. Meditation is torture for you.
Despite how useful meditation can be, most people with MD can’t help but want to shy away from it. They know it will require them to focus their attention, which seems just about impossible with the amount of thoughts racing around in their heads.
17. Visualization is a piece of cake.
If there’s one thing people with MD are good at, its visualization. They know how to hold an image in their mind and make it come to life. Ask them to picture a room in an imaginary house, and they’ll not only see it, but they’ll experience it as if they were there. They might hear rain patting against the window, or smell something baking in the kitchen. For maladaptive daydreamer, what begins as an image can become reality.
18. You frequently experience déjà vu.
Living with MD can feel like every day is Groundhog Day. When you’re talking to someone, you feel like you’ve already had the same conversation before. Places and activities feel familar even if they’re completely new. At their most vivid, daydreams can simulate reality and make people feel as if they’ve done something when they know they haven’t.
19. A great movie scene makes you think, “That’s going in my next daydream!”
I wouldn’t doubt that for maladaptive daydreamers, the true motivation behind watching or reading anything is to find new inspiration for their daydreams. The right scene or character might keep a new fantasy going for months.
20. You can’t hold your concentration for long periods of time.
Remember what I said about how intrusive daydreams can be with MD? I wasn’t joking. Maladaptive daydreaming can make completing even the simplest tasks difficult. Concentrating on anything that’s not daydreaming for longer than a minute feels like holding your breath underwater.
21. You never remember where you put things.
People with MD aren’t the best at staying conscious of the present moment. They can be oblivious to what’s going on in their environment, or even their own actions. One moment they can put something down, and the next they’re looking for it since they weren’t really “there” when it happened.
22. You choose your music based on your current daydream scenario.
Although people with MD can have normal music preferences like anyone else, more often than not, their fantasies influence the music that they listen to. Sometimes they need the right song to set the tone for a dream scene, or even to trigger the daydream in the first place.
23. You do real-life research to make your daydreams more accurate.
Maladaptive daydreamers want their fantasies to look and feel as real as possible. Sometimes they accomplish this by doing actual research in the real world. They might look up houses, different styles of clothing, the history of a certain time period, or particular details of a location. Despite the amount of work that goes into it, the process can actually be quite fun.
24. You’re hooked on name books and online name generators.
What’s a story without names? Those characters and towns that you spend hours creating don’t name themselves, you know.
25. Your daydreams have a special place in your heart.
Despite the issues, our daydreams matter to us. They’ve been with us through the ups and downs of life, and have helped us understand who we are. We wouldn’t be quite the same without them.
Question: what items on this list did you relate to?
26 Comments Add yours
Oh god… It’s so relatable, that I started laughing loud. Every single point mentioned here Is so like my life.
Yes, MD certainly has its own way of making life interesting, doesn’t it? Glad you enjoyed the post!
Everything on this list. Everything. Deja Vu… favorite scene from movie to dream about later. Everything. I just found out today that I have a problem and that it is real. I do not feel as alone as I have for my whole life. I wish I found out years ago.
Yeah, I wish I knew these things a long time ago, but better late than never. Believe me, it’s much easier to move forward from here. Thank you for your thoughts!
I am still not sure if I have this, just like I’m not sure about anything anymore. I always tell myself that I’m probably just imagining that I have mental problems and that it’ll pass eventually. I relate to most of these things, but I can’t help but doubt myself and somehow I still think I made it all up for attention, even though I hate attention and people noticing me.
I can definitely see how it would be hard to pin down something like MD, but I honestly wouldn’t worry about it too much. Until there’s more research done, MD’s not something a doctor can formally diagnose anyway. In the meantime, I would say this: trust your instincts. If you feel like you’re on to something, then you probably are. If some of the information about MD helps you define and make sense of your experiences, then there’s no harm in taking advantage of it. Best of luck to you!
After reading the signs I am now absolutely sure I have MD. Please may you help me find a way to stop it forever because I really find it difficult to study and I will be writing my final exams next year in November and I really need to pass. I swear if I fail my exams because of this, I will probably hang myself. Please help me I am desperate
I am so sorry to hear that MD is causing you so much grief! I know how it can become so consuming that it feels like there’s no way out. But believe me when I say that you CAN overcome this. Your MD started for a reason, and uncovering that reason is the solution to stopping it. I’ve listed a few ways to do this in many of the articles on this site, but if your MD is affecting you that badly, it’s absolutely essential you talk to a professional. A therapist can help you work through your feelings so that you can understand what’s behind your MD and how to start controlling it. Or, a doctor can help you manage it with medication if that’s an option you feel comfortable taking. While this might seem daunting, there’s nothing shameful about getting help for MD, especially when it’s affecting your mental health so strongly.
Believe me, I know it’s hard not to think about how MD is going to affect your future – in fact, I think most of us MD’ers have battled with those same feelings. But when you’re trying to recover from MD, you have to take things one day at a time. Focus on getting through today, this moment. Whenever you can, try to find ways to stay mindful of the present. That’s why I recommend meditation so much: it trains you to stay focused on the moment and it keeps your stress levels down: both things which can prevent MD. You also might want to look into the Pomodoro technique for studying – it’s something that’s really helped me in the past, and it might help you too if you feel like you can’t focus for long periods of time.
Things might seem impossible now, but don’t give up the fight. Although this is a tough time for you, I hope you find something here that will help you. Stay strong, and I wish you all the best.
I just recently found out about this term for my habits, and I must say that your articles are very helpful! I’ve seen many people speaking of wishing to stop MD or sharing viewpoints that are more on the negative side of this day dreaming. However, I’ve used MD my entire life, not only when I’m alone and losing hours to it, but also in the real world. I use it as a daily coping mechanism for when something like walking through a crowd by myself triggers my anxiety.
The characters I’ve invested so much into, I know them and trust them more than anyone else. For that, I drag them into reality to be by my side in times of need. I can’t honestly say that I find MD as a negative experience at all. If my daydreaming is interrupted, I simply drag my characters along with me into my current task to help out or keep me company. I remember having to travel for exams once, and I don’t think I could’ve gotten through all the stress without my MD. Heck, if my characters hadn’t been there to cheer me on and keep pestering me to study, I would never have passed. I know it must be unhealthy, but I really depend on MD for everything from entertainment, emotional needs, creative drive, and real world situations.
What are your thoughts on this? Is it really possible to make MD into a healthy practice? Thanks for all of your insight. 🙂
Wow, that’s amazing how you used daydreaming to help with your exams! You’ve really found some creative ways to make daydreaming work for you!
To answer your question, I do think it’s possible to transform MD into something positive. You’ve provided a great example of how it can be done. But I think for this to work, it requires a lot of self honesty and discipline. A person has to be able to judge when their daydreaming is consuming too much of their lives – and that’s not something that’s easy for everyone. To me, daydreaming is a lot like eating dessert – it’s a fun treat that can make life more interesting, but it can easily become addictive if we don’t set limits. Yet what those limits are will be different for everyone.
In your case, it seems you’re using your creativity to your advantage, which is a really great thing. Of course, only you can tell if your daydreaming is unhealthy, but I think that if you can daydream and still accomplish your goals at the same time, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. 🙂
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Thank you so much for your insight! That’s a very helpful way to look at it. 🙂
This is so true.
Except I am still able to switch off sometimes (for example when I really have to listen to somebody or finish something).
I also have a group of friends that we’ve created an “alternate universe” with – we are completely different there, have little bits of our own stories and create new ones together. It’s not nearly as good as the world in my head, because it’s still a lot more real, but it’s still better than “reality reality” and sometimes it helps me with keeping myself grounded. (at least it made me finally feel a bit connected to the outside world)
I’m just probably somewhere on the edge of maladaptive daydreaming and normal daydreaming ever since one thing happened in my life (when I was 9) and it started feeling like a nightmare, so I had to start dreaming to forget about what happened. Or maybe I’m just weird, who knows.
Thank you for this anyways.
(sorry for mistakes etc. but English isn’t my first language)
That’s a really great approach to daydreaming. Writing is something I’ve done in the past to cut down on the daydreaming and it’s really helped me. It’s nice to know that it works for others too. And the fact that you’re able to interact with friends at the same time makes it even better. I think as long as you find outlets like that, you can keep your daydreaming under control.
I’m trying to figure out if I have this, but it’s different from the list above. For one I can’t decide when I want to daydream, it just happens automatically. I zone out of the “real world” while doing something and fantasize myself doing the same thing but in a scenario and end up creating a whole story around it and before I realize what’s happening it’s already been like 30 minutes. I act out what I do with small gestures and talking quietly out loud.
I don’t plan ahead, ever, it just happens and it’s not voluntary. Some of the daydreams I have no control over and they turn into twisted horror stories of what could happen around me in the real world, and I feel the emotions and worries from my daydreams even though they have no real connection to the world around me. It bothers me on an emotional level more than it does on a practical one.
Could this still be MD?
That does sound a lot like MD. Many people with MD experience their daydreams very intensely just as you’ve described, body movements and all. Losing time is also pretty common too, and it’s one reason why many people want to get rid of it. At the same time though, whether or not these things are something you need to “treat” are up to you. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with experiencing intense daydreaming as long as it doesn’t cause major problems. I hope that answers your question!
each and every point is cent percent accurate. I want them in my real life too now especially the one to whom I got attached ..I want him for my self but I haven’t find a way to get him . I want to see him in real life want to talk to him or just see him And saddest part is I can never ever be with him and its Reality 😦
I don’t know what to do with it but it’s been NINE years, I am living with it …but I can’t tell anyone around me bcz they would think that I got insane 😦
all 25 of them..
Oh My Allah this is sooooo me! I couldn’t believe it! Thank you so much for posting
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Im so happy i finally found a name for my condition, but i dont want to change that, makes feel special and in peace.
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That’s great to hear that you’re content with your daydreaming! As long as your daydreaming adds positivity to your life, then there’s no reason to stop if you don’t want to. Thanks so much for your comment!
hi! I just found out that my daydreaming is actually a disease @0@
Although i’m not really sure if it’s serious. I’m a huge tv buff and a huge fan of music and I didn’t think it was a big deal when I created situations and acted out how those idols and characters would react to them. usually I would tell my sister about these scenes and act out how they would react and she would laugh at it saying it was hella accurate, but now that I think about it, I do it all the time with my friends and even in the bathroom. I just sort of become that person and think of what they would do at that time.
when i’m studying or when i’m not engaging in a conversation, I tend to just zone out and think of the most random things ever like what kind of cereal bowl i’ll be eating out of in 10 years time and it’s really getting the worst out of me. I haven’t done it to the point where I zone out of conversations but if we’re talking about the tv show or music idol I would say, “haha imagine BTS on new year’s eve..” and I would say “this would be Taehyung” and i’d act him out and them i’d say “jungkook would just be like” and i’d act him out. and sometimes I just act out scenes, randomly out of the blue acting like these people itself, but mostly when i’m alone like when i’m making my own food, or in the bathroom. also I tend to mimick people, mostly from my fav tv shows, cartoon or music group and tbh just anybody that I find funny or entertaining. I just think reliving those scenes by myself makes me happy..?
I don’t know, I really don’t..but is this considered a symptom? I have my final exams in like 3 weeks and i’m studying but half the time I zone out and think of kpop concerts or how I would be like when I meet them at a fansign and I would act it out as well :’) I still haven’t done it in front of people tho, that would be embarrassing and i’m sorry for the people here that were caught 😦 you were doing something that made you happy and everyone thinks you’re crazy.
I really want to know how to stop this for the time being bc I really have to study and focus on my grades right now. thank you!
(btw I just zoned out when I thought of the kpop concert while writing this …sigh)
It’s definitely normal with MD to zone out sometimes when you’re studying. But luckily, there are a couple of methods that you can try that will help you overcome it.
One way is to use the Pomodoro Technique where you study for 25-minute intervals and take short breaks in-between. You can either use a timer or you can download an app that will manage these intervals for you. This is really helpful if you struggle with a short attention span while you’re studying. This wiki article gives a simple explanation on how to do it if you want to give it a try: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
Another method is to incorporate your daydreaming into your studying using a little creativity. Many maladaptive daydreamers have had a lot of success with imagining a character encouraging them to study or creating a daydream where their characters are studying with them. I used to do this a lot in high school, and I found it really helpful when I needed to study.
In your case, if there’s a particular K-pop idol that you find to be really inspirational, you can imagine them sitting with you, cheering you on, or you can act out a scenario where you’re pretending to study in the way you’d imagine they would if they were in your class, depending on their unique personality. There are a number of ways you can do this, so don’t be afraid to be creative, but the more fun and interesting it is to you, the more likely you’ll stick with it.
Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your daydreams, since we all need a mental break once in a while — just as long as you make time for your studies! I hope this helps, and good luck!
I have known for a while now that I have had MD although, I don’t think it’s too serious. I never really questioned my dreaming until I decided to research about it and realised that it’s an actual thing and that there is a name for it too. I often daydream at night so I can find it quite hard to get to sleep and random times during the day when I’m alone in my room. For example, after I do some studying and feel bored, I just randomly stand up and start walking around my room, talking to myself but (although sometimes it can be quite difficult) I always manage to get my work done. I have never really started daydreaming in the middle of a conversation or neglected the people or relationships in my own life because of it and I’m fully aware that my imaginary worlds are all in my mind and it’s not real.
I’ve been trying to do more research about it because I’m planning on writing an essay about it for school but I’m really frustrated at how little research has been done on it. I don’t think my MD has too much of a negative effect on me, but there are some people who really suffer from it because they find it really difficult to stop it and they cannot continue with their daily tasks normally. Some people have it because they’re depressed and are really unhappy with their normal lives so they really need help. But for me at least, it has helped me a lot and I consider it a blessing. I wouldn’t be able to imagine my life without it and I find that my daydreaming are the roots to my creativity. I’ve been writing a story that I’ve been imagining for my whole life and have lived in myself since I was younger. I made up all the characters, some have died, some have grown up with me and I visit them often. When I’m studying, I imagine my smart characters explaining questions that I don’t understand to me and when I’m upset, my own characters console me and in the end you end up consoling yourself and explaining things to yourself because they’re your own creations. It helps you realise that you are your own best friend. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to have.
Thank you so much for sharing this list, I can relate a lot. I’m glad that there are people in this world like me.
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Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with MD. I think you’re absolutely right about how daydreaming can really be helpful at times, especially when we need to tap into our creative side — and I suspect that many good stories that have been written had their beginnings in a daydream.
And this is really what I hope others with MD discover as well — that their daydreaming can be invaluable for personal growth when it’s done in moderation. Again, thanks for sharing, and I’m glad you liked the list!
Hi. I have been a maladaptive daydreamer since I was three months old. My mom told me that I laughed at things even when they didn’t do anything at all. When I was 7 years old, I ran while daydreaming sometimes. I was diagnosed with ADHD, but was untreated for a long time and now I have depression and anxiety. Even now, when I am 19 years old, I make funny faces while daydreaming and I daydream all the time. I thought about writing about some of the fantasies I have. I daydream constantly and I can’t stop it and it tires me. I currently have at least 3 entire worlds in my head, with named characters, with the “plot”(idk how to name it) the length of a novel. The good part is that it improves my creative process, because i make music and it helps that i can imagine situations for the melodies I create, but is very exhausting.
I just found out about this and a few parts made my jaw drop because of how much they relate to me. I’ve always had a “vivid imagination” but once I grew out of the reasonable age to have imaginary friends, I kept it to myself. My MD is where I have created a more perfect version of myself which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it has helped me identify different places where I personally can improve and grow and allowed me to set goals to get there but on the other hand, some of the more unattainable things have really hurt my self confidence. Additionally, because I have them centered around my life (just a better version of it) they become hyper realistic with real people I know involved in the story lines which does make me get amazingly attached to the ideas of some people that I’ve articulated as opposed to who they are as a real life human. I’m the person that everyone goes to with their problems and my daydreams are where I can be problem free or at least have a place to go to vent about my issues. But it does impair some of my abilities to focus. It has impeded my studying and reading abilities; I’ve always said that I’m a slow reader because I’ll completely map out every scene in my head and now, at the age of 20, I can remember scenes from books I read when I was 10 because of it. But when you are reading academic journals, there’s no place for that so even for classes that I like I can’t force myself to do the work. I want to be able to focus but I also don’t want to lose my daydreams because they are my safe place.