Should You Join Maladaptive Daydreaming Support Groups?
Finding out that you're a maladaptive daydreamer (perhaps because you've taken a maladaptive daydreaming test) can be rather disorienting. This is all for good reason, of course. Because when you find out that you're a maladaptive daydreamer you must grapple with the reality that you're living out a form of a false life; you're letting hours of your real life slip away so that you can live in a fantasy world you've constructed that not only doesn't help you, but that actively harms your real life.
When faced with this reality, all maladaptive daydreamers begin search to hear the experiences of others who have had (and hopefully overcome) maladaptive daydreaming.
However, part of the reason why I started this site several years ago is because once you've overcome maladaptive daydreaming, you never want to hear or think about it again. So I wanted to break that mold as someone who had, and then overcame, their maladaptive daydreams. Because just like a chronic smoker never wants to be tempted by the smell of a cigarette again, so too do maladaptive daydreamers never want to hear about maladaptive daydreams again.
Over the past several years maladaptive daydreaming support groups have become quite popular. These have sprouted up on Facebook, Discord, etc. to try to bring together those that have maladaptive daydreams in order to talk about their experiences and hopefully get rid of their daydreams together.
This is all entirely rationale. Support groups are the bedrock of addiction counselling. However, I'm skeptical that most support groups can really work for maladaptive daydreaming in the same way they do for smoking, for example. There are exceptions, of course, but I do think you need to be careful if you're looking for a support group and not just join the first one you find.
Why I'm Skeptical of Most Maladaptive Daydreaming Support Groups
Knowing that others have gone through maladaptive daydreaming is important. Normalizing MD and hearing the experience of others is entirely worthwhile (that's the reason behind this site!).
However, one needs to be very careful about how much they hear about other people's maladaptive daydreams. This is because everyone's maladaptive daydreams are rooted in their own issues; from loneliness, to stress, to boredom, to trauma.
Often when you aren't quite at the stage of being mentally ready to quit maladaptive daydreaming, hearing the stories of other people can help spur your own desire to maladaptive daydream yourself and create new storylines.
Further, because so many people maladaptive daydream due to being lonely you have many people who join open support groups just to interact with people (not really because they actually want to quit their daydreams).
I've heard from many maladaptive daydreamers who have joined support groups and found themselves not only not reducing their own maladaptive daydreams, but also now spending hours a day talking back and forth with others on their daydreams.
Support groups that are run by moderators who have deep experience in working with those with maladaptive daydreaming can certainly be beneficial. These moderators can help make sure that conversations are being kept on the rails, which is largely what moderators do in other forms of addiction counselling.
However, these support groups are the exception. Instead, what I've seen most often is groups in which people trade their stories back and forth and are given words of encouragement or advice by other people. This can lead to support groups being more of a social crux than an active way in which you can dislodge your maladaptive daydreams. In fact, it can lead to subconsciously not wanting to get rid of your maladaptive daydreams because you don't want to no longer have a reason to be in the group.
So, this is not to say that there aren't support groups for maladaptive daydreaming that can help you. I'm sure they are out there. However, before joining you should study the kind of dialogue taking place within the groups. You should ask yourself:
- Do all members of the support group seem like they are dedicated toward getting rid of their maladaptive daydreams?
- Do past members appear to have had success (and have left the group)?
- Are there moderators within the support group who are keeping the conversation on the rails?
- Is the conversation being dominated by just a few people or does everyone share and learn together?
I'm a firm believer that because maladaptive daydreams are ultimately something you created yourself, and that you probably have never shared with anyone else, that you should try to get rid of them on your own or with the guidance of one or two people who have deep experience with maladaptive daydreaming themselves.
This ensures that you don't begin to see your maladaptive daydreams as a way to socially connect with other people who also have maladaptive daydreams. Because this is almost always will lead to you subconsciously or consciously having more resistance to giving up your daydreams.
The final point I would make is that you should be deeply honest with yourself about how your daydreams could rationally have served a purpose in the past. This is something I've talked about significantly in my book on maladaptive daydreaming.
For example, many realize that their maladaptive daydreams began due to not wanting to face the realities of their life. This is often rooted in trauma, loneliness, or disaffection from their family or friends. When you join a support group and begin discussing your maladaptive daydreams, sometimes people will play armchair psychologist and begin to ask probing questions or offer suggestions about what your maladaptive daydreams could really mean.
While this can potentially be illuminating, such questions and suggestions should really be done by a trained therapist or psychologist. I worry significantly about support groups potentially making people more overwhelmed than before they entered into it as a result.
So, be sure to do a significant amount of due diligence before joining any form of support group. Also make sure that you are honest with yourself if you are finding yourself spending hours a day in these support groups. Replacing maladaptive daydreaming with talking about maladaptive daydreaming for hours a day isn't an ideal solution.
Ultimately, by definition, maladaptive daydreams are daydreams that do not serve a useful function in your life and are actively harming your life. Your goal should be to use methods and tricks to try to cut these daydreams out of your life; replacing them with healthy, adaptive daydreams. It's all easier said than done, I know, but ideally you should aspire to no longer maladaptive daydream and think very little about how you used to maladaptive daydream in the past. Some support groups could help you on this pathway, but please carefully consider the questions I posed earlier before joining.
As always, take care and best of luck in your journey.