Recent studies have identified a new psychological disorder called Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD), wherein people spend an average of 60 percent of their waking hours in an imaginary world they created, realizing it as a fantasy without losing contact with the real world.

In 2002, one of the researchers, Professor Eli Somer, identified child sexual abuse survivors who regularly escaped into a world of imagination where they fantasised stories, enjoying experiences that were missing in their real lives and named the phenomenon maladaptive daydreaming.

In 2011, Jayne Bigelsen and Cynthia Schupak studied 90 people who complained of excessive daydreaming and showed that this condition also affected individuals without adverse childhoods. In the wake of these studies, countless individuals experiencing the same phenomenon got in touch with the two and sought advice for help.

Together with Professor Daniela Jopp from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland and Liora Somer from the Multidisciplinary Center for the Treatment of Victims of Sexual Abuse at the B'nai Zion Medical Center in Haifa, Professor Somer conducted additional studies and interviewed individuals experiencing MD.

The researchers found recurring themes, such that while maladaptive daydreaming could at first be a positive experience that provides pleasure and relaxation, it turned to be an addictive habit that took over their lives and impaired their functioning.

Sommer and Jopp were recently joined by Jayne Bigelsen and Jonathan Lehrfield from the University of Fordham in New York City and published two studies that dealt with MD. One was the development and validation of a maladaptive daydreaming scale (MDS) using 447 individuals.

The MDS was shown to differentiate well between normal and maladaptive daydreaming. It is also shown to be the first diagnostic and research instrument for MD.

The second study involving 340 participants aged 13-78 across 45 countries showed that individuals with MD spend 60% of their waking time in daydreaming, and more than half were disrupted in their sleep, noting that the urge to daydream is the first thing they are aware of upon awakening. People with MD often daydream about fictional tales and characters versus those in the control group who often had daydreams anchored in reality.

In conclusion, Somer says, “when people spend about 60 percent of their waking time daydreaming, it's no wonder that they feel frustrated that they can't achieve their goals in life. The next step in our research should focus on developing an effective treatment for sufferers.” MIMS