The Micro-Politics of a New Mental Condition: Legitimization in Maladaptive Daydreamers' Discourse

Orit Bershtling, Eli Somer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study illuminates legitimization efforts in the discourse of individuals who suffer from excessive, uncontrolled daydreaming: a contested mental condition that has not yet been recognized by the medical establishment. It aims to explore the rhetorical maneuvers employed by these “Maladaptive Daydreamers” in 35 email exchanges with the second author and two petitions, submitted to the American Psychiatric Association and to the UK Parliament, with a demand for recognition. Our analysis, anchored theoretically and methodologically in Critical Discourse Analysis, identified several verbal strategies employed by the participants to persuade their interlocutors about the realness of their suffering. The main strategies were clustered into three dimensions: (1) professional—appealing to the audience’s professional identity as scientist-practitioner and presenting shared knowledge; (2) social—forming a joint consensus group, a coalition or a partnership; (3) psychological—appealing to the interlocutor’s emotions through gratitude, self-disclosure or humor. This bottom-up analysis, positions individuals’ claims as a starting point for knowledge-dissemination and institutional change and blurs the modern dichotomy between the objects and subjects of medical gaze.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1983-2002
JournalThe Qualitative Report
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2018


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