When Daydreaming Becomes a Nightmare: Identifying and Treating Fantasy Addictions Before They Take Over


Professionals call it "maladaptive daydreaming" but to you, it's a comfortable, sometimes exciting place of fantasy where you can escape nearly any hardship or woe. Whether you're dealing with heartbreak, loss, trauma, abuse, financial problems or simple boredom, daydreaming could become your go-to coping mechanism. However, when the fantasy begins to take priority over your real-life responsibilities, along with pushing aside actual measures of resolution, things can quickly turn from dream to nightmare.

Why It's Happening

You may be blessed (and cursed) with such a vivid imagination that the fantasies you experience bring you real gratitude, a real sense of accomplishment, or whatever else it is that's missing in your actual life. The brain, as with dreams, may not decipher the difference between your imagination and reality, making fantasy such a realistic experience, it becomes very difficult to leave, even more so if you're using fantasies and daydreaming as coping mechanisms to avert facing pain in real-life. 

While you may have your own highly specific purpose for maladaptive daydreaming, the following are examples of the usual culprits which lead to such an affliction:

  • Because you're anxious a lot and need someplace to be more confident and decisive.
  • If you're hurting inside and the only way to feel better is to visit another "world" where you can make everything feel better.
  • When you need to escape intense pain, such as what you'd suffer at the hands of someone emotionally or physically abusive.
  • After experiencing significant loss, like someone very close to you dying or otherwise saying "goodbye."
  • As a response to an obsession, perhaps with a celebrity, fictitious character, or someone you know, but can't approach.
  • Whenever you're bored, lonely, or need to replace a painful feeling with one more positive and rewarding.

Using fantasy to escape a harsh and unpleasant reality is not unusual; rather, it's a common method of coping that the human brain is well-versed in for its own survival.

When Fantasy Is Healthy

Daydreaming, in moderation, may help you solve problems, make decisions, or get you through a temporary discomfort. It's a creative process that may exercise your artistic side or spur your motivation, enabling you to do something you needed a nudge to dive into. Fantasy can be very good for a person, provided it isn't over-used or implored as a substitute for needed problem-solving.

Where It Becomes Dangerous

For some, fantasy becomes the only refuge, ultimately interfering with the ability to lead a normal and fulfilling life, especially if they can't stop yourself from visualizing the alternate environment. Work performance and relationships suffer if your daydreaming slips out of your control. Unfortunately, this can lead to depression and exacerbate anxiety, as you're forced to deal with or deny the problems that need solving.

How to Ask for Help

Maladaptive daydreaming is thought to be an extension of an underlying obsessive-compulsive disorder, in cases where it's not being used as a coping mechanism. Luckily, psychotherapy services can help. When the seeds of fantasy-addiction are sown, psychiatric services can offer a host of helpful therapies, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral or analytical therapy, focusing on general behaviors and more specific issues you're dealing with.
  • Humanistic therapy, which pays more attention to your inner self.
  • Psychodynamic therapy, where your inner motivations are examined for their influence on your external behaviors.

Maladaptive daydreaming, like any other psychological or emotional issue affecting your well-being, should be addressed as soon as you realize you're having difficulties dealing with the problems in your life, or if someone else points that fact out to you. Fortunately, there's help in sorting out the emotional confusion and healing for the emotional wounds life often leaves a person with. For more information, contact local psychotherapy services. 


11 March 2020

Advice for Getting Through Stressful Situations in Life

From the time I was born to the time I graduated high school, my parents were very overprotective of me and shielded me from all of the "bad" things in the world. When I decided to go to college out of state, they wanted me to stay closer to home, but gave into my wishes eventually. Once I got settled at college, I realized just how attached I was to my parents. I began to feel so homesick that I almost quit before the first semester ended. I decided to visit a counselor to see if she could help me get through the semester, and after just a couple of visits, I began actually enjoying my time away from home. I know there are others in tough situations like I was who need guidance, so I decided to start a blog to share my tips for coping with stressful situations.