Maladaptive daydreaming: A qualitative inquiry

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Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning. This qualitative inquiry explored the nature and experience of MD. Six patients in a trauma practice were identified as displaying MD. Four participants were diagnosed as suffering from a dissociative disorder; two were given the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. Cross-sectional analysis of respondents' verbatim transcripts yielded nine themes clustered into three categories (Functions, Themes, and Dynamics) that best captured the fantasizing experience. Identified MD functions included Disengagement from Stress and Pain by Mood Enhancement and Wish Fulfillment Fantasies; and Companionship, Intimacy, and Soothing. Recurrent MD themes were Violence; Idealized Self; Power and Control; Captivity; Rescue and Escape; and Sexual Arousal. Motifs that were classified as describing MD dynamics were Onset and Kinesthetic elements. Although MD seemed to have been preceded by a normal childhood propensity for creative imagination, aversive circumstances were seen to have contributed to the development of MD. Theoretical explanations for the development and function of MD are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-212
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Childhood trauma
  • Daydreaming
  • Dissociation
  • Fantasy proneness
  • Imagination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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