BE’ER SHEVA, Israel — Could daydreaming actually be a mental disorder? A new study reveals that some people daydream to such an extreme that it interferes with their ability to function in the real world. Researchers in Israel say these patients are often diagnosed with ADHD, but they believe maladaptive daydreaming (MD) should be its own medical condition.
Study authors explain that people with MD slip into highly detailed and realistic daydreams. They can last for hours and keep people from paying attention to their work or classroom studies. Despite all that, MD is not a formal psychiatric syndrome.
“Some individuals who become addicted to their fanciful daydreams experience great difficulty in concentrating and focusing their attention on academic and vocational tasks, yet they find that an ADHD diagnosis and the subsequent treatment plan does not necessarily help them. Formally classifying MD as a mental disorder would enable psychological practitioners to better assist many of their patients,” says Dr. Nirit Soffer-Dudek from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in a release.
MD patients have more mental health issues
Dr. Soffer-Dudek is hoping officials will add MD to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. To convince them, researchers examined 83 adults with ADHD, looking at each person’s symptoms for inattention, depression, loneliness, and MD.
Results show 20 percent of the participants met the proposed criteria for a maladaptive daydreaming diagnosis. Moreover, these patients also had much higher levels of depression, loneliness, and lowered self-esteem than ADHD participants that did not meet the standards for an MD diagnosis.
“Our findings suggest that there is a subgroup of those diagnosed with ADHD who would benefit more from a diagnosis of MD,” Dr. Soffer-Dudek concludes.
“MD has unique clinical characteristics that are distinct from ADHD. We suggest that in some cases presenting with ADHD symptoms, an MD conceptualization may better explain the clinical picture,” the study authors write in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.