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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maladaptive daydreaming or compulsive fantasizing.  I don't like the word maladaptive - I just looked it up.

Maladaptive behavior is a type of behavior that is often used to reduce one's anxiety, but the result is dysfunctional and non-productive. For example, avoiding situations because you have unrealistic fears may initially reduce your anxiety, but it is non-productive in alleviating the actual problem in the long term. Maladaptivity is frequently used as an indicator of abnormality or mental dysfunction, since its assessment is relatively free from subjectivity

I'm not an alcoholic, I can stop anytime I want too.  I'm not a compulsive fantasizer, I can stop anytime I want to.  Some people drink to reduce anxiety, but are not compulsive or addicted.  I fantasize to reduce anxiety.  If I stop fantasizing my anxiety soars, depression sets in, and I'm spiral downward.   One the depression locks in, everything seems negative, even the daydreaming.  I work hard at not being depressed although I realize it is something that will always be there in the background or waiting to descend upon my soul.  If my daydreaming keeps me one step ahead of that, maybe it is not so maladaptive.

One thing I've noticed lately, is this particular, very detailed, very researched daydream is starting to get boring which makes me feel like someone  will die.  


I think fantasing is my emotional "crutch". It helps me get through periods when Im feeling depressed, low or unable to cope. Its my alternative to drinking or drugs which other people may turn to, to get them through difficult times. However, I feel I have come highly dependant on it, the same way someone becomes dependant on drink/drugs. I am too scared to stop because I fear for my mental health if I didnt have this in my life. However, the other side of the coin is that I fear for my mental health by spending so much time fantasing. Its a vicious circle.

I think fantisising fits me better than daydreaming. Daydreaming seems an "airy-fairy" expression in my opinion.

I to have to share my thanks to Dr. Shcupak, "Compulsive Fantasizing" was the first thing I ever read about MD, it finally helped me understand what was happening and led me to this site. If you've read all these comments you understand why your work is so important, there are so many of us with so many different views and opinions of MD/CF and we're all a little lost on the fact. We need to get it more known and studied, so we can really come to understand what this is.

compulsive fantasizing fits me better because I can NOT stop or choose not to engage in it. Fantasy fits me better then daydream, I think of daydreaming as when you imagine something you want to do or acheive. I think of fantasy as something you could never do because it maybe impossible but you get a high from imagining it.

Thank you so much, Dr. Schupak. Your work has, literally changed my life. I was wondering if it is possible to read the paper you are referring to in this post? Unless I am misreading, others in the comment thread seem to have read it, but I can't seem to find it, at least not under the title "Compulsive Fantasy". I did read a paper under a different title that I think referred to this study, so maybe that was it. Thanks :)

Yes, Pseudo Life, this happened to me too with a therapist.  Suddenly they want to talk about my mom.  With whom I've never even really had problems BTW so it was weird.

Here is how I've come to understand it myself.  I've done it my whole life.  I remember doing it in kindergarten, and there was no childhood abuse or trauma in my life.

But as I've gotten older, I have faced major trauma and challenges, and the MDD has gotten MUCH WORSE.  It is very obviously a coping mechanism for me. 

So I think it is something that we are born with that can get worse in the face of trauma.  But the MDD was there first.  It just used to be easier to control because my reality was already so pleasant and interesting that I only dipped into my fantasy world when I was really bored (strapped into a plane seat for hours, for example, or commuting on the freeway).

Pseudo Life said:

 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).

Please no syndrome is always associated with early trauma.  I'm a fantasizer.  Put that in the hands of a DID fanatic therapist  and pretty soon we are both looking for repressed memories and other bs. 

Yeah, compulsive fantasy works better for me too because I did it compulsively my whole life, not just when I was trying to cope.  Maladaptive sounds like when you use compulsive fantasy as a coping mechanism, which I also do now but didn't always.

Nomad said:

I'd like to throw in my thanks to you, Jayne Bigelsen, Eli Sommer, and Cordelia.

About the topic: I'm not hearing anyone say they're married to the term "maladaptive daydreaming." I personally prefer "compulsive fantasy." It's not just that "fantasy" fits better than "daydream." It's also that the word "compulsive" is familiar and easily understood. "Maladaptive" works well in Dr. Sommer's professional article, but it's a bit fancy for the Internet.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Is it true that "MD is an established label" so people want to hang on to it? Does anyone think "maladaptive daydreaming" works better than "compulsive fantasy"?

Love your posts, Pseudo Life.

That happens to me too- the daydream gets boring.  I start to lose interest.  In the past, that has been the best time for me to break away from it.  Cease the moment!  Then what usually happens is that something will happen in my real life or I'll read about something that excites me, and next thing you know, I introduce that element to the daydream, introduce a new character, and then it is all fresh and exciting again.  Or failing that, I'll kill off someone!  Ha ha- when I got to that part of your post, it made me laugh out loud!

And now lately, I've been through that process so many times that I've brought someone back to life!  lol

Pseudo Life said:

One thing I've noticed lately, is this particular, very detailed, very researched daydream is starting to get boring which makes me feel like someone  will die.  


Dr. Cynthia this might sound like a stupid question, I know that MD is not listed in the DSM, what action would need to be taken in order for it to be listed? Thanks!


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