Recently the term “excessive daydreaming” (originally “maladaptive daydreaming”) has been proposed to refer to persistent absorption into one’s fantasies, significantly affecting functionality and daily activities.
We will see in this article what excessive dreaming is , what are some of its possible causes and the effectiveness of its treatment.
What is excessive dreaming? Symptoms
Excessive dreaming” is a newly generated construct to describe the tendency to be repeatedly distracted by one’s own fantasies, which eventually leads to a significant experience of stress, as well as difficulty in accomplishing one’s daily tasks.
It is defined as: “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with interpersonal, academic or vocational functionality” (Sommer, 2015). In this sense, excessive dreaming is characterized by the psychological dependence manifested in the compulsion to abstract oneself in fantasies in a compulsive manner . As such it is difficult to control. Sometimes it can last for hours and sometimes even days, which eventually affects the person’s daily responsibilities.
The description of excessive dreaming has gained popularity among frequent Internet users around the world, who have communicated to talk about their dreaming experiences. In fact, this experience is related to a high daily exposure time to the Internet .
The latter have especially reported the following characteristics of excessive dreaming:
- The person recognizes that has this tendency to become intensely abstracted in his fantasies since childhood .
- In private it generates rituals that facilitate the state of dreaming (e.g. walking, listening to music).
- They relate this to experiences of distress during previous life cycles, especially during childhood and adolescence.
- Excessive dreaming is recognized as a mental habit that is also an obstacle to fulfilling daily activities.
Some studies on this type of dreaming
Dreaming and the world of fantasy has been long studied by psychology since its inception. These experiences have gone through different approaches. They range from psychoanalytic postulates that relate excessive dreaming to deprivation and latent psychic conflicts, to cognitive-behavioral theories, which differ between constructive dreaming related to creativity, and a compulsive one related to attention deficits or avoidance behaviors .
This has generated several studies on the nature of daydreaming and excessive daydreaming. A difference has been found between one and the other in quantitative terms, in terms of content, in terms of the experience of stress and feeling of control, as well as in terms of the interference in the person’s functionality.
This could indicate that excessive dreaming shares several of the characteristics of addiction to certain behaviors . However, studies have concluded that more research is needed to determine whether this is a specific disorder or clinical picture, or whether it is one of the characteristics associated with different types of addiction.
It is also necessary to determine whether it is a specific syndrome or one of the characteristics of other clinical pictures such as dissociative disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In any case, there is already a standardized instrument to analyze whether a dreaming experience is being normal or excessive.
This is the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale, which is a self-reporting instrument validated in Anglo-Saxon populations in 45 different countries. The same scale relates excessive dreaming scores to obsessive-compulsive behavior and thinking, dissociation, attention deficit, as well as the sensation of presence during dreaming and the possibility of psychotic manifestations.
The content of the fantasies, according to the reports of those known as excessive dreaming, is often characterized by themes involving emotional support, competence and social recognition .
In this sense, dreaming is comforting and rewarding, since is a relief from everyday stressors related , for example, to the promotion of excessive individualism and high demands for social recognition. It is also related to the coping schemes for such stressors and the compensation alternatives available.
In terms of treatment, much of the scientific literature agrees that more research is needed to obtain conclusive results. However, empirical studies have begun to be conducted on the efficacy of psychotherapeutic treatment in these cases. Specifically Eli Somer (2018) from the University of Haifa in Israel, has reported the course of psychotherapy in 25 men with excessive dreaming. The therapeutic plan included cognitive behavioral interventions as well as mindfulness meditation.
It lasted 6 months and its results were evaluated periodically. As a conclusion, people reduced the time of their overall dreaming by more than 50% as well as the amount of time they spent on the Internet by 70%. The latter translated into improved social and work functionality. However, maladaptive daydreaming improved at a lower rate, as did self-reporting of pleasure or gratification associated with daydreaming.
- Schupak, C. and Rosenthal, J. (2008). Excessive daydreaming: a case history and discussion of mind wandering and high fantasy proneness. Retrieved 27 September 2018. Available at https://web.archive.org/web/20121025225258/http://www.scribd.com/doc/9089146/Excessive-daydreaming-A-case-history-and-discussion-of-mind-wandering-and-high-fantasy-proneness.
- Somer, E. (2018). Maladaptive daydreaming: a qualitative inquiry. Journal of Contemporary Prychotherapy, 32(2/3): 197-212.
- Somer, E. (2018). Maladaptive Daydreaming: Ontological Analysis, Treatment Rationale; a Pilot Case Report. Frontiers in the Psychotherapy and Trauma and Dissociation, 1(2): 1-22.
- Somer, E., Lehrfeld, J., Bigelsen, J. and Jopp, D. (2015). Development and validation of the Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS). Consciousness and Cognition, 39: 77-91.
- Pietkiewicz, IJ., Nechki, S., Banbura, A. and Tomalski, R. (2018). Maladaptive daydreaming as a new form of behavioral addiction. Jorunal of Behavioral Addiction, 21:1-6.