Objectives: Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is a condition involving excessive, highly immersive daydreaming. We conducted a cross-sectional investigation of the occurrence of MD in adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the overlapping characteristics between the conditions. Methods: We surveyed broad ASD traits, MD symptoms, sense of presence in daydreaming, loneliness, emotion regulation difficulties, and restricted and repetitive behaviors in a sample of 609 adults without a diagnosis of ASD and a sample of 235 adults with a diagnosis of ASD. We also examined the occurrence of MD in the ASD sample using a structured interview. Results: A path analysis revealed that broad ASD traits were associated with MD symptoms via the mediating effects of loneliness and emotion regulation difficulties. Moreover, 43% of adults with ASD reported experiences of MD, and hierarchical regression analysis revealed that these symptoms were associated with loneliness and emotion regulation difficulties. A multivariate analysis of covariance to compare groups showed that individuals with co-occurring ASD and MD scored highest on measures of loneliness, emotion regulation difficulties, restricted and repetitive behaviors, and sense of presence in daydreaming, compared to individuals with either ASD or MD alone or those with neither condition. Conclusions: This research indicates that experiences of MD are common among adults with ASD and are associated with high degrees of loneliness and emotion regulation difficulties. Future research should further explore the unique presentation of MD in ASD and the associated challenges.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by NIMH 1R01MH112687-01A1 and the University of Connecticut Postdoctoral Seed Grant Award.
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Emotion regulation
- Maladaptive daydreaming
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Psychology (miscellaneous)