Taming Wild Minds – Maladaptive Daydreaming
– Zeenat Talpur
In this small world of betrayal, I live two lives. One real, but it feels so unreal to me. Beautiful and complete on the outside but full of regrets and incomplete on the inside. Surrounded by loved ones; it’s a life full of happiness yet there is a yearning in it; yearning of unfulfilled desires. And wishes that can never come true. I fulfill them in my other life. The life I live in my head. The one I often dream of. That life makes me feel alive than this real one. Here I just about exist.
Almost all of us love daydreaming. At least to some extent, which is not bad. It’s the addiction that is bad. I’m sure a lot of people out there can relate to the above passage, but I doubt many would know what exactly is this condition called. Does it even have a name?
Yes, it does. It is called maladaptive daydreaming. The following are its most common symptoms:
- Creating vivid characters, settings, plots; and other detailed, story-like features
- Often triggered by real-life events.
- Difficulty completing everyday tasks.
- Difficulty sleeping at night.
- Always feeling an overwhelming desire to stop work and continue daydreaming.
- Making facial expressions while daydreaming which include whispering and self talking.
What causes it? At some point, all of us feel depressed with our lives— with our state of being. Hence in order to shield ourselves from our own insecurities, fears, doubts and most importantly from being depressed our mind urges us to daydream- to forget our present state and resort to fantasy; just to make us happy it creates a fake illusion of perfection.
We daydream about all the things we think we can’t do, to some extent it is “adaptive”. The problem starts when you begin to live in your mind – when you begin to resort to it as your refuge every time you’re angry or sad.
It becomes a problem when your daydreaming which started as a way of coping against depression becomes your means of escape and engulfs your whole ‘self’. You create an illusion—a perfect little bubble but it starts to expand and takes a life of its own. You do in there all that you think you’re incapable of doing in the “other” life. The characters are the people you want in your life. Basically anything that is missing in your life is there. Your daydreams involve self-fulfilling desires.
Some people don’t imagine themselves but instead, make their characters like they want to be—either way, they live their life through their characters. It’s like you dwell on your daydreams more and forget to actually live.
When you’re done daydreaming that bubble bursts and you are suddenly thrown back into reality. It feels even more hard to deal with the present state. A crushing sadness swamps you, leaving distraught. You feel more dissatisfied with your life and also with your ‘self’. Maladaptive daydreaming slowly causes distortion of ‘Self’. One feels more insecure than he was before, more afraid, more incapable of dealing with reality. So while it is a coping mechanism, it actually hinders healthy coping. This leads to generalized unhappiness which spills from the state of affairs to the self.
Does it have a cure? When people become addicted to maladaptive daydreaming some of them are afraid they would end up losing control. You are not losing control or becoming borderline psychotic. Hold your horses! Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder, which occurs due to a chemical imbalance. While maladaptive daydreaming is not psychotic, nor it has anything to do with the chemical disposition of our brain. It’s just your mind’s desperate attempts to defend itself against your insecurities and dissatisfaction, and ends up being your addiction.
In order to control your daydreams, you need to first question yourself that if you get all that you dream of would you stop daydreaming? No, you wouldn’t. Because it’s not just about your dreams anymore. It’s about you. You started daydreaming about your desires but you ended up living there. You have begun to feel there. Whenever you feel sad, angry, or insecure in order to escape that crushing feeling you resort to daydreaming. So in order to quit you need to allow yourself to get in touch with your feelings, to feel in real and not through your characters. Feel the anger, feel the sadness and express it instead of escaping from it.
Letting go of everything: One of the most difficult things you will find is to let go of all that you imagined in the fantasy world. Letting go of all the characters you made. First of all, you need to realize it’s not about your characters. It was never about them. It is all about you. All along everything was about you. Everything existed just to protect you, to satisfy you, but somehow ended up being your addiction. You do not have to give up everything. Your daydreams are still yours, they can stay with you as memories. You just need to stop living there and begin living here. You need to make your two worlds as one.