The 5 Maladaptive Daydreaming Symptoms You Need to Know

One of the tricky things about maladaptive daydreaming is figuring out if you actually have it not.

This is because the line between daydreams that are adaptive and entirely normal, and daydreams that are maladaptive is often quite fine. This is only exacerbated by the reality that someone in the depths of engaging in maladaptive daydreaming doesn't have the necessary perspective to always fully know that what they're doing is different from ordinary daydreaming.

Part of the reason why the maladaptive daydreaming test was developed was in order to help those who suspect they are maladaptive daydreamers actually figure out if they are or not. 

In this post we're going to briefly go over some of the key symptoms that characterize maladaptive daydreamers. If you recognize some of these symptoms in yourself then you should consider taking the maladaptive daydreaming test to see what your results are.

Maladaptive Daydreaming Symptoms 

Below are some key maladaptive daydreaming symptoms to be aware of:

Having Trouble Concentrating on Tasks

Being Often Triggered by Media

Having Daydreams Immediately Upon Waking Up

Feeling Consistently Tired Through the Day

Feeling Overwhelmed Despite Doing Little Productive Activity

Having trouble Concentrating on Tasks

One of the most common maladaptive daydreaming symptoms is having an inability to concentrate on a task without being seduced into a maladaptive daydream.

This is particularly true of tasks you're engaging in that aren't overly enjoyable or exciting. So, for students this could be studying for a test and for professionals this could be doing a monotonous task of some kind.

It's traditionally quite easy for those who are prone to daydreaming to be able to "snap themselves out of it". So, for example, an individual procrastinating to avoid studying for a test may engage in daydreaming. But when they convince themselves that they really need to focus on studying, they'll be able to without having their daydreams interfere in their concentration.

With maladaptive daydreams, however, it can be very hard to keep their daydreams from intruding again and interfering with their train of thought (which is an incredibly frustrating experience, I know!).

Being Often Triggered by Media

Many forms of media - from TV shows, to movies, to books - are forms of escapism for everyone. It's entirely normal to see yourself as a lead character while watching a movie and imagining yourself in that character's shoes.

However, for maladaptive daydreamers things tend to get taken to a bit of an extreme. Many maladaptive daydreamers, as soon as they hear a certain song or watch a certain video, will be triggered and immediately fall into one of their maladaptive daydreams. 

When it comes to daydreaming about TV shows, movies, etc. these should be purely temporary forms of escapism that you don't come back to over and over. Further, these daydreams shouldn't take up large swaths of your time and otherwise interfere in your life. If that does occur, it's a symptom of maladaptive daydreaming. 

Having Daydreams Immediately Upon Waking Up

Most of those who daydream will do so toward the end of the day, as they're getting tired and are trying to wind down.

However, a symptom of maladaptive daydreaming is that you begin to enter into one your daydreams almost immediately upon waking up. This is generally a maladaptive behavior as when one wakes up, they should ideally be thinking about their plan for the day, where they need to be and at what time, etc.

One of the most obvious signs of someone who has had their adaptive daydreams turn into maladaptive daydreams is if they are engaging in maladaptive daydreams immediately upon waking up (which has the tendency to throw off one's entire day right away). 

Feeling Consistently Tired Through the Day

Physical activity is not the only thing that can make you feel tired throughout the day, so too can mental activity. 

While daydreams can sound relaxing and like the opposite of putting mental strain on yourself, the reality is that coming up with complex and potentially emotionally draining daydreams can absolutely can a mental drain.

Many maladaptive daydreamers feel tired throughout the day because their mind is so actively engaged on their daydreams for hours a day. This stands in stark contrast to most people who will give their mind a rest throughout the day in which they think about nothing in an overly strenuous manner. 

Feeling Overwhelmed Despite Doing Little Productive Activity

Finally, the last symptom that's common among maladaptive daydreamers is feeling overwhelmed throughout the day despite doing little productive activity and having little outside stress. 

Most people do not find their adaptive daydreams to be overly overwhelming, stressful, or emotionally draining. However, some maladaptive daydreamers engage in such complex, vivid, and emotionally taxing daydreams that they can quickly begin to feel burnt out or overwhelmed as a consequence of them. 

If your daydreams are making you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, or otherwise stressed out then that's an indication that they are maladaptive.


Pinpointing whether someone is engaged in normal, healthy daydreams or in maladaptive daydreams can be an incredibly tricky process. That's why there are maladaptive daydreaming tests that are quite involved and will require a bit of thought to answer. 

However, beyond seeing if you have the five symptoms of maladaptive daydreaming above, the surest way to figure out if your daydreams are maladaptive is to simply ask yourself whether they're harming your life in some way and if you are unable to stop daydreaming when you want to.

As always, I hope that this post has helped. If you're looking for further resources of stopping maladaptive daydreaming, I've put together many posts on this site (along with the book that I wrote on how I stopped my maladaptive daydreams).

Best of luck in your journey toward healthier, more productive daydreams.

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