Wild Minds Network

Where wild minds come to rest

Hi all, it's Cynthia Schupak.  

When my co-author, Jayne Bigelsen, and I wrote our recently  published paper on the results of our 90-participant study, the most difficult part was defining the activity that actually constitutes the condition we've come to know as maladaptive daydreaming.  Our reviewers and editors insisted we read and comment on hundreds of pages of scholarly articles documenting how common mind-wandering, daydreaming, and other non-specific types of "off-task" thought occur in average people.  We found that the best definition fitting the mental activity shared by this community is not best alligned with daydreaming, which is simply too broadly used in the cognitive literature.  We also found that it is often the difficulty in limiting fantasizing time that is of concern to many with MD; thus we referred to literature on other types of compulsive disorders (eating, gambling, shopping, etc.) that are recognized diagnostically, though not by DSM... and we titled our paper "Compulsive Fantasy".  Below is a quote from our paper that illustrates how we arrived at this:

…what was most useful for understanding the mental activity of the present study population were Klinger’s observations that although most people have an intuitive understanding of the meaning of the terms 'daydreaming' and 'fantasy’,

‘‘from a scientific standpoint, these topics of daydreaming and fantasy are considerably more complex. Daydreaming appears to be an essential component of people’s equipment for functioning. Yet, both daydreaming and fantasizing are poorly defined concepts, and they are by no means the same thing’’ (p. 225).

 In 1971, Klinger stated that: ‘‘Most investigators would agree that a fictional tale created by a subject for his own pleasure and for no other purpose constitutes an instance of fantasy’’(p. 6).

 Butler (2006) offered a strikingly similar and useful definition differentiating between daydreaming and fantasy:

The typical daydream begins spontaneously and is experienced as an ongoing series of brief associated thoughts or images triggered by internal or external stimuli or cues and deals most often with current life concerns. In contrast the development of fantasy may be an elected pastime. It is more elaborate and continuous, composed of more pure imagination and directed at self amusement, pleasure, distraction and escape (p. 48).

We recognize that MD is an established label and noted this in our paper, citing the very large online community (you guys) who identify this way...I'm posting this in response to a thread I came upon onsite recently -- and ultimately lost.  Hope this is meaningful to someone here -- and my best to you all.

 

 

 

 

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Thank you both for your work! In my experience with MD I was confused about daydreaming and/or fantasizing being a normal human activity. I knew I did it more intensely than others but I had no idea how much more intensely until seeing the study numbers and reading the scienticically based materials. It's one thing to relate to others on these boards but to see my "condition" analyzed with facts and known psychological fingings it has helped me understand myself immensely. I see how it is tricky to separate normal fantasizing with maladaptive type daydreaming in order to explain it to someone who doesn't understand. It truly is a compulsion and not just a pleasant distraction.

I'm glad you found our study helpful -- it was like pulling teeth to get our reviewers and other cognitive scientists to comprehend that this condition does not overlap with everyday notions of mind wandering and daydreaming...and there are still plenty of skeptics.  We are doing our best to get this condition recognized and won't stop trying until we do.

I'd also like to thank you so much! I think Cordellia already told you this, but I shared your study with my parents, which was able to convince them how serious this is. Ever since then, they've been trying to help me reduce my MD, and I've been able to talk to them about it without worry. It already made a significant impact on my life. =D

I had to use your study to do a school project, I thank you for the A I got on it Miss Schupak :D

Thank you for going to all of that work.  I'm nervous about telling people that I have problems with daydreaming specifically because I am worried that they won't understand what I mean and will think that I'm saying I have ADD or some other attention problem.  In actuality, I don't have problems with concentrating on things; I just find it difficult to find things other than my daydreams interesting. 

Cynthia Schupak said:

I'm glad you found our study helpful -- it was like pulling teeth to get our reviewers and other cognitive scientists to comprehend that this condition does not overlap with everyday notions of mind wandering and daydreaming...and there are still plenty of skeptics.  We are doing our best to get this condition recognized and won't stop trying until we do.

Cordellia's my personal hero (yay Cord!)

I'm so happy to hear that some of you are using Jayne and my work to help others understand this condition -- we especially need to inform the clinical community so that useful treatments can be explored.  Let me know if any of you speak to your doctors/therapists about your MD as I can do online consults (I'm a doctor as well, but as a PhD. biopsychologist I don't have much of a platform in clinical psych).  I am in contact with Eli Somer -- who invented the term 'maladaptive daydreaming' in his 6-person study of trauma victims who fantasize -- I think he now understands that this syndrome is not always associated with early trauma and we may collaborate in the future.  Drake, congrats on your A, and Laila, good going with your parents!  And someday, Placidia, there will no more shame in having this condition than there is in having ADD.  Everyone keep contributing -- I'm trying to get more scientists & physicians to take a look at these forums and see how many of you are describing such similar symptom profiles.

always good to spread the word of MD :D my teacher really responded to it

Cynthia Schupak said:

Cordellia's my personal hero (yay Cord!)

I'm so happy to hear that some of you are using Jayne and my work to help others understand this condition -- we especially need to inform the clinical community so that useful treatments can be explored.  Let me know if any of you speak to your doctors/therapists about your MD as I can do online consults (I'm a doctor as well, but as a PhD. biopsychologist I don't have much of a platform in clinical psych).  I am in contact with Eli Somer -- who invented the term 'maladaptive daydreaming' in his 6-person study of trauma victims who fantasize -- I think he now understands that this syndrome is not always associated with early trauma and we may collaborate in the future.  Drake, congrats on your A, and Laila, good going with your parents!  And someday, Placidia, there will no more shame in having this condition than there is in having ADD.  Everyone keep contributing -- I'm trying to get more scientists & physicians to take a look at these forums and see how many of you are describing such similar symptom profiles.

I found your research article really interesting. Thank you also for recognising that this condition is different from just a normal pleasant distraction that the majority of people experience with daydreaming. I can see how difficult trying to define the boundaries of various thought processes can be. Also what constitutes normal or not. For me personally what has been fascinating( although not always ideal ) was the transition from a lifetime of coexistent daydreaming and normal life into daydreaming taking over early this year. I am on a personal search for the reasons why so this website and any research is helpful. 

If I were still seeing a therapist, I would definitely do that.  As it is . . . is there any chance you have any recommendations for therapists who might be good at dealing with these issues?  I realize that obviously MD is not listed in the DSM and therefore isn't a well-known thing, but if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them.

Cynthia Schupak said:

Cordellia's my personal hero (yay Cord!)

I'm so happy to hear that some of you are using Jayne and my work to help others understand this condition -- we especially need to inform the clinical community so that useful treatments can be explored.  Let me know if any of you speak to your doctors/therapists about your MD as I can do online consults (I'm a doctor as well, but as a PhD. biopsychologist I don't have much of a platform in clinical psych).  I am in contact with Eli Somer -- who invented the term 'maladaptive daydreaming' in his 6-person study of trauma victims who fantasize -- I think he now understands that this syndrome is not always associated with early trauma and we may collaborate in the future.  Drake, congrats on your A, and Laila, good going with your parents!  And someday, Placidia, there will no more shame in having this condition than there is in having ADD.  Everyone keep contributing -- I'm trying to get more scientists & physicians to take a look at these forums and see how many of you are describing such similar symptom profiles.

I also want to add my thanks to you.  And I starred my notes when you talked about compulsive fantasizing.  You described the differences very clearly and I certainly fit the compulsive fantasizer.  As you said, however, I am kind of used to the term MD.  I was also fascinated to read that mind wandering may be the brain's basic setting.  This "feels" right to me.

We have been each others' best therapists on-line.  I can't imagine where I would be without all the interest, support, humor and great ideas people have given me through a really tough summer.  It's not the kind of thing you can bring up with a friend - "my dream lover just got a new girl friend" - and get any kind of meaningful response.  But I know how much we all hunger for more professional guidance & inspiration.  Thanks again.

I am curious to know if there are any patterns or any sorts of things we should keep track of that may be helpful to professionals who aren't keen to accept this as a diagnosis. From a psychologist's standpoint, are there any details or markers we could consider baselines to differentiate MD from everyday mind wandering? Like that it's not always pleasant thoughts or that it interferes with normal life. I feel like a psychologist may be more receptive if I had a firm set of parameters instead of saying "well I just have lots of characters and I sometimes play the same thing over and over, oh and I like to do reasearch." It's like describing a bunch of vague symptoms and hoping the doctor knows what I'm trying to say. I realise that not everyone had the same syle of MD so it won't be possible to make a list of points that describes everyone. I guess I want to be able to make as united a front as possible.

Dr. Cynthia I've read your report.  It captures a better picture than Dr. Eli Somer's study, but then he focused on a specific group. I wish your report had elaborated more on whether MD lessened once the subjects shared it with spouses, friends, family etc.

Also alot of subjects reported about how it affected their quality of life, I think if the study had been a little more detailed you might have also concluded that most MD people have time-management problems. It is so easy to get caught up in our imaginary world that we lose track of time. 

I've noticed alot of patterns in my MD and just working backwards on when it started,when my mind wanders, I have been able to control it to some extent. I wish your study had listed a few 'cures'.

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