Is Maladaptive Daydreaming Rare? It's Complicated
Determining if maladaptive daydreaming is rare can be quite difficult. This is because - unlike other mental disorders - there is no agreed upon definition of what maladaptive daydreaming is.
For example, how prevalent ADHD is in the general population is quite easy to figure out as physiatrists are equipped to diagnose someone with ADHD. Someone can not officially be given a diagnosis of being a maladaptive daydreamers and thus we need to look at alternative ways to measure how rare maladaptive daydreaming really is.
The best way to get a general idea of how common maladaptive daydreaming is involves looking at search data from Google.
What you can see here is that on average 150,000-200,000 in the United States alone are searching for information on maladaptive daydreaming every single month.
Of course, not all those people will actually have it, but it is an indication that a non-trivial percent of the population know of maladaptive daydreaming and are searching for it.
Further, one thing that has been note-able this year is the large uptick in the number of people searching for maladaptive daydreaming.
While there could be many possible rationales, it would appear as though many are finding out about maladaptive daydreaming for the first time and perhaps recognizing that they have maladaptive daydreams.
Another confounding factor in determining how rare maladaptive daydreaming is or is not revolves around the severity of an individual's maladaptive daydreams. As I frequently mention here, having daydreams is perfectly good! In fact, daydreams can be a great way to flesh out future options for yourself by imagining yourself in scenarios years down the road if you make certain decisions today.
What makes daydreams maladaptive are if they:
- Begin to take up an inordinate amount of your waking hours; including distracting you from things you should be doing in real life
- Begin to become increasingly abstract
- Begin to become increasingly emotionally draining
- Begin to revolve around central characters who are not you (but rather some other person, real or fictional)
Over the last several years over 600 people have taken the Maladaptive Daydreaming Test, which I created in order to help people understand whether or not they should think about their daydreams as being maladaptive or not.
I believe that those who score above 40 on the MD Test are most likely having maladaptive daydreams. For those who score under 40, it's more ambiguous.
Roughly 78% of those who took the test scored above 40. This tends to signal that the majority of those who are actively searching for maladaptive daydreaming resources do have what I would define as maladaptive daydreaming.
Does Maladaptive Daydreaming Being Rare Matter?
Ultimately, because there is no agreed upon definition of maladaptive daydreaming there can be no definitive study of what percentage of the population suffers from maladaptive daydreams.
However, if you are a maladaptive daydreamer - or think you could be - it shouldn't matter to you exactly how rare it is.
The reality is that it is not rare. There are hundreds of thousands of people in just the United States alone who are every month searching for maladaptive daydreaming resources.
Further, I know from having created the resources here at How to Stop Maladaptive Daydreaming that there are likely millions of people around the world who are looking to learn more about maladaptive daydreams and how to stop them.
If you are struggling, you are not alone. While your daydreams may be abnormal, that doesn't mean that you are.
As I wrote in the MD book that I put together, I've found that maladaptive daydreamers tend to be very creative folks. It's this creativity that allows them to dream so vividly and create these abstract, intricate world's in order to shield themselves from the realities of their lives.
It's important to recognize too that maladaptive daydreaming is a relatively new phrase for what is likely an ancient malady that has always been something some subset of humans suffer from.
Just as has been the case for countless other mental disorders, just because the "maladaptive daydreaming" is new to this century doesn't mean that in centuries past individuals haven't suffered from the same thing (but likely called it something different).
While there is no way of knowing exactly how common maladaptive daydreaming is, there is a way to know that the number is likely in the millions.
I've had the pleasure of speaking to those who have maladaptive daydreaming who are from every race, religion, and background possible. Maladaptive daydreaming doesn't discriminate it who it targets or how it grabs hold of you.
However, know that many, many people who overcame their maladaptive daydreams and I've profiled some of their stories here. You can stop your maladaptive daydreams and get back to your real life; still daydreaming, but not engaging in those daydreams that have the capacity to derail your life.
Best of luck on your journey and be sure to fill out the Maladaptive Daydreaming Test if you think your daydreams could be maladaptive. Further, if you want to see how you compare to others I provide the results of those who have previously taken the test on that page.