Maladaptive Daydreaming Stories: Nick's Embarrassing Daydreams

Maladaptive daydreaming is on the rise, with a rapid growth having been seen so far in 2020.

However, the majority of maladaptive daydreamers appear to be women as opposed to men based on online search data. In fact, it's not even close. Those searching online for maladaptive daydreaming resources is split roughly 70/30 in favor of women. Those who go through Solving Maladaptive Daydreaming also appear to split roughly 70/30 in favor of women as well. 

Personally, I don't think that men are necessarily less affected. I think men simply don't know what's wrong with them and are scared to even search for what the answer may be.

However, Nick did know something was wrong and went searching for the answer. He quickly found the issue was maladaptive daydreaming and he contacted me after working through it with the help of the course.

Nick's Maladaptive Daydreaming: Under The Bright Lights

Nick's maladaptive daydreaming follows a familiar path. Nick had a great time in high school and in college. In fact, he went to a great college and got quite a prestigious job out of college.

However, like many prestigious jobs for new grads the high pay and prestige came with a trade-off: long, lonely, and fundamentally boring hours.

I'm with Nick. I followed the exact same path out of college and as a side note, for our younger readers here: don't chase prestige for the sake of prestige!

Anyway, after around six-months on the job Nick was beginning to get jaded with the job and full of anxiety. He knew this job wasn't for him, the industry he was in wasn't for him, and he wanted to get out. Desperately.

However, like many new grads, he was insecure about what others would think if he quit and he was now an adult on his own. He had bills to pay and couldn't just quit without an exit plan.


With work crushing down on Nick in an endless torrent he had no time to think to himself. He couldn't see the forest through the trees and as a result was left a little dazed and confused about the position he had found himself in.

Instead of confronting his situation, he retreated into daydreams.

Nick's Daydreams and How They Became Maladaptive

Nick had always loved football (American football, for our international readers). He played it in high school, followed the NFL religiously, and dreamt of one day leveraging his prestigious career into some kind of front-office role with a college football or NFL team. 

As Nick became more and more jaded with his job his only solace was thinking about how his career was one that many NFL front-office folks had followed, so maybe he too could follow that path.

However, as the months ticked by Nick's daydreams became much more frequent and much more abstract.

All of a sudden, Nick no longer was daydreaming about himself, in a few decades, working behind the desk making player personnel decisions.

Instead, he daydreamed of some version of himself having played football in college, gotten into the NFL (as a player!), and winning games under the bright lights in front of tens of thousands of fans.  

These daydreams began to consume not only the hours before Nick went to bed, but also those while he was working. As he was taping away on the computer he would find himself drifting into a state of thinking about how he would make the perfect pass as a quarterback in the NFL.

Like many maladaptive daydreamers, at first Nick didn't think much of this beyond it all being rather embarrassing. After all, don't we all have fantasies of some kind or another? 

But then Nick's boss got involved. Nick was brought into a room and his boss, with a rather concerned look on his face, began to bring up the fact that Nick's work was suddenly quite subpar. He was making basic errors and wanted to know what was going on. 

Nick Suddenly Realized These Daydreams Weren't Just Harmless Fantasies

Nick apologized profusely to his boss and said a few distracting things were going on in his personal life (which was true, I suppose!) and promised things would get better with his work.

However, when Nick made a conscious decision to stop these daydreams they didn't stop. As he would diligently and deliberately try to work on a work task the daydreams of playing in the NFL would come right back. 

Nick was deeply embarrassed and ashamed. How could an adult - who was well educated with a prestigious job - fall into such unrealistic fantasies.

Nick began to research the issue and found that he met all the criteria for being a maladaptive daydreamer laid out in the maladaptive daydreaming test.

  • Nick had daydreams that he increasingly had a hard time "shutting off"
  • Nick's daydreams were getting more complex and more detached from his "real self" (after all, Nick knew he wasn't ever going to play in the NFL!)
  • Nick's daydreams began to interfere with his real life; they weren't just some harmless form of fantasy for his own entertainment

Nick then decided he needed to make a swift change or he risked losing his job. Nick wasn't happy with his job, which is why he engaged in these maladaptive daydreams to begin with perhaps, but he still didn't want to be fired.

Nick's Maladaptive Daydreaming Action Plan

Nick began to utilize a number of the tricks laid out in Solving Maladaptive Daydreaming along with the seven-step method. 

Within a week - with concentrated effort - he had managed to sour himself on the fantasy he had spent nearly six months building up in his mind.

Nick described to me the kind of "residue" as he called it that was left in his brain. Almost like a void that had been quickly carved out by a surgeon.

After living with these maladaptive daydreams, it's true that it can feel very odd when they are either non enticing to engage in or simply removed from your life.

However, for Nick getting rid of these daydreams was a job-saver. His work improved and he recognized the fact that these maladaptive daydreams came about for a reason: because he was not facing the reality of the life he had built being on the wrong track. 

Nick made a game plan. He found a number of jobs that have less hours, less stress, and (unfortunately) pay a bit less as well. However, Nick thinks these are much more aligned with his interests, long-term (real life) plans, and will be more fulfilling and engaging for him. 

The industry Nick is in generally expects people to stick around for three years. Surprisingly even though he's still over a year away from the three-year mark, Nick is fine with sticking it out at this job. He described to me that just having a tangible action plan for what job he wants next is enough motivation.

The Key Takeaways from Nick's Story

In my mind there are really two key takeaways from Nick's story (although undoubtably you could find more!). 

The first is that Nick's maladaptive daydreams were telling him something at a much deeper level than he realized.

Yes, Nick knew he was unhappy and unfulfilled in his prestigious job. 

...But the mere fact that Nick would engage in maladaptive daydreaming revealed something much deeper about just how unhappy Nick was with the direction of his life. He realized that he was so unhappy in order to find any release he had to engage in rather embarrassing fantasies about being a star athlete.

What I try to stress in Solving Maladaptive Daydreams is that often these daydreams are telling you something, but it's all indirect. Nick wasn't being told by his subconscious that he should really go try to be a NFL player!

What he was being told was that there was nothing worth daydreaming about that was connected to his real life; not even the promise of perhaps being involved in a football related role decades from now.

The second key takeaway is that Nick's maladaptive daydreaming allowed him to reach the "boiling point" so to speak.

If Nick had not engaged in such intensive maladaptive daydreams - that led to poor job performance - perhaps he never would have had the clarifying insight that he needed to seriously change up his life.

In other words, perhaps if Nick did not have these daydreams he would have continued on being mired in his own misery for years without ever seriously engaging with what was making him so miserable (because it wasn't just his job, it was the direction of his entire life!).

Maladaptive daydreams can often tell you something, but it requires deep introspection to find out what that is. Very rarely are your maladaptive daydreams revolving around what you really want in life. Most of the time they are just fantasies as far removed from your "real life" as possible, because that means your real life and your maladaptive daydreams never need to overlap. 

Nick went through a real struggle and did not tell his story to any of his parents or friends out of embarrassment. That's understandable and entirely normal. You don't need to tell people about your maladaptive daydreams to get over them and frankly most won't understand what you're talking about to begin with. 

However, overcoming your maladaptive daydreams is not of reach and your time spent maladaptive daydreaming (once you get over it) should not be felt to entirely be a waste.

Often these daydreams are at least partly your subconscious trying to tell you something that your conscious is desperately trying to ignore.

As always, take care. For more MD stories, see Amy's success story and Jessica's overcoming of her maladaptive daydreaming struggle

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